Babylonian Art


Babylonian Art Essay, Research Paper

Comparison of Babylonian Art vs. Egyptian Art

Over the history of man, there have been many prosperous empires that ruled in different parts of the world. Babylon and Egypt are two of these empires that ruled almost 500 years apart, but had one thing in common, great artistic works. Wall paintings such as the Babylonian work Investiture of Zimrilim, and the Egyptian Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis are examples of the great works of their times. Both pieces are rich in meaning and background, share many similarities, but differences can be seen in their style due to the time periods.

The wall paintings Investiture of Zimrilim and Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis have backgrounds that let viewers into a small view of their ancient times. The first, Investiture of Zimrilim comes from circa 1750 B.C.E. in the great Babylonian Empire of Mesopotamia. It was constructed on a mud plaster wall of the Palace of Zimrilim, who was a contemporary of the Babylonian Ruler, Hammurabi. The palace was located in the capital city of Mari, about 250 miles north of Babylon. This painting was one of the many extravagant wall paintings Zimrilim had to depict his dominance. It was made to show the empowerment of Zimrilim from the Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of war, fertility, and love. The piece was eventually destroyed by the Babylonians who turned on Zimrilim and ransacked his palace; however parts of the painting survived.

The second piece, Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis, also depicts the meeting between a ruler and a deity. This piece, shows the ruler Queen Neferati whose tomb is where the painting rests. It is located in the Valley of Queens, near Deir el-Bahri in Egypt, and was painted between 1279-1212 B.C.E. Within the walls of the tomb are many depictions of the Queen using hieroglyphics to outline the figures. These are placed to show the afterlife of the Queen who was buried with the offerings depicted in the painting. Like the first piece Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis, has an elaborate background, just one of their many similarities.

In comparing the two works at hand, it is easy to find similarities, even though they were done in very different styles. First, both works were made very formal, so that they could be worthy of the rulers to whom they belonged. They are very serious depictions of the interactions of humans and divine figures. Both pieces are asymmetrical in nature, but the Babylonian work shows an inner focus on a frame at the center, which is symmetrical. The colors of each work are very important its purpose, which explains why both works use such a wide range of colors and balance the light and dark schemes so well. The figures in these pieces are very stable and strong, and share mostly realistic proportioning of the human body. Even though many things about these works can be compared on a parallel, they are still very unique paintings with many differences.

For the paintings Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis and Investiture of Zimrilim, Many elements of composition are much different in style and origin. The most noticeable difference about these works would be the size. While the painting from the palace of Zirilim measured only five and a half feet tall, while the painting on the tomb of Neferati covered an entire wall of the grand structure. However, Zirilim’s painting was larger in one way, it was much deeper. While the tomb wall uses plain white as a background giving it a very flat look, the Investiture of Zimrilim uses extensive shading and contrast of light and dark to give it a three dimensional feel. Another big difference about how the paintings look now has to do with preservation. The work in the palace of Zimrilim was partially destroyed and now is in pieces and is missing parts, while the tomb painting remains fully intact. Despite the destruction, the focus of the painting is in the untouched center where Ishtar is confronting Zimrilim. The artist brings attention to the importance of this by framing it, and having all the creatures faced toward the center. Also, the brightest point of the painting is focused on the empowerment, and there are many symbols of power surrounding it. The original viewers of the painting would have been drawn toward the weapons and lion with the figure of Ishtar. Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis, however uses a much different scheme to attract interest to its subject, the actual offering jars of perfumes. This offering takes place at the center of the painting, which the slant of the ceiling and the outlining hieroglyphics both lead toward. Despite the differences in focus, depth, and other composition aspects, both pieces can’t be denied as great works of art.

The works of art discussed come from very elaborate backgrounds. They share and oppose many aspects of artistic composition, from size to color schemes. The styles of the Babylonians and Egyptians, which contributed to these works, were both very unique and great during their time period. Their style, grace, and attention to detail is what makes empirical paintings such as Queen Neferati Making an Offering to Isis, and Investiture of Zimrilim still considered great art even today.

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