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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Gudea, Prince of Lagash

Gudea, Prince of Lagash

Gudea, Prince of Lagash

Gudea, Prince of Lagash was the political and religious governor of Lagash, in Southern Mesopotamia, one of the oldest Sumerian cities. This statue was discovered as two pieces, twenty-six years apart. Archaeologists found the head in 1877, then the body was found in 1903. Many figures of Gudea, both standing and seated, have been discovered; however, none of them was complete. Bodies without heads have been found, and the heads with missing bodies. Archaeologists succeeded in assembling the two fragments of this statue, resulting in the first and only complete representation of Gudea. The engraved inscription on the rob identified the subject as Gudea of Lagash.

Approximately twenty-seven statues of Gudea, a ruler or “ensi” of the state of Lagash have been discovered in southern Mesopotamia. Gudea ruled between about 2144 – 2124 BC and the statues demonstrate a very sophisticated level of craftsmanship at the time.

More than 2,400 inscriptions mention his name and describe his 20-year campaign of city improvements, including new temples and irrigation canals. He was also a patron of the arts. More than 30 statues of Gudea, both seated and standing, can be found in museums across the world, including the following museums:

This statue shows Gudea wearing a royal turban with stylised curls on his head. The clean-shaven face of Gudea is calm and reassuring. His large eyebrows are represented in the conventional fish-bone style of the period. This statue of Gudea with hands clasped is a common motive with many of the Gudea statues. The hands create a distinctive pose that recurs in both seated and standing versions. It is an expression of devotion, humility or piety.

Approximate location of Ancient Lagash in modern-day Iraq

The powerful pose of the prince is underscored by the dark colour of the diorite, used in most of the statues of Gudea that have been discovered. This durable stone was imported at a significant cost from the Gulf region.

This statue was discovered during the excavations at Tello (ancient Girsu), capital of the kingdom of Lagash. Lagash was an ancient city located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Iraq. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East and nearby Girsu (modern Telloh), was the religious centre of the Lagash state. The inscription on the statue is a dedication to the god Ningishzida, who was Gudea’s god. The Inscription also lists the temples built by the Gudea, ending with the temple of Ningishzida, where the statuette stood.

Gudea, Prince of Lagash

  • Title:              Gudea, Prince of Lagash
  • Created:        C. 2120 BC
  • Period:           Neo-Sumerian
  • Find site:        Tello (ancient Girsu)
  • Material:        Diorite
  • Discovered:   1877
  • Height:          H. 46 cm; W. 33 cm; D. 22.50 cm
  • Museum:      The Louvre

Tour of Mesopotamian Art

Reflections

  • He was also a patron of the arts, and over 30 of his statues can be found in museums across the world.

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“The first duty of government is to protect the powerless from the powerful.”
– Hammurabi

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Photo Credit: 1) By UnknownMarie-Lan Nguyen (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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