The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

Statue of Gudea

Cleveland Museum of Art - Joy of Museums 12

Gudea was the political and religious governor of Lagash, in Southern Mesopotamia, one of the oldest Sumerian cities. Approximately twenty-seven statues of Gudea, a ruler or “ensi” of the state of Lagash have been found in southern Mesopotamia. Gudea ruled between ca. 2144 – 2124 BC and the statues demonstrate a very sophisticated level of craftsmanship for 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 feature in “Joy of Museums”:

Cleveland Museum of Art - Joy of Museums 13

Gudea chose the title of “énsi” or town-king or governor, not the more exalted “lugal” (Akkadian šarrum). Many statues had their heads severed in an effort to destroy their ritual potency. 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.

The purpose of the statues were to represent the ruler in temples, to offer a constant prayer in his stead. Most of the statues bear an inscribed dedication explaining to which god it was dedicated.

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                      Statue of Gudea
  • Date:                      2143-2142 BC
  • Period:                  Neo-Sumerian
  • Findsite:               Iraq, Girsu
  • Medium:               Dolerite
  • Dimensions          126 x 55 x 36 cm (49 9/16 x 21 5/8 x 14 1/8 in)
  • Museum:               Cleveland Museum of Art

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“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”  Marcus Aurelius

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Photo Credit: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons