Lamassus at the Louvre and British Museum

Hello! Here’s a post from our series, THATKid Tuesday which is a dose of Art History pieces for kids, simplified and illustrated. These terms are culled from the glossary found in our Kid Packs, booklets you receive on Luxe Hunts that offer families the possibility of taking the museum-interaction with them. I made the Kid Packs for families visiting London and Paris, b/c as a mother, I’ve really just wanted to have a glass of wine at the end of a lovely day touristing. Have found such exercises fun to engage my boys, Storsh and Balthazar, in quieter museum fun when we’re at cafes and restaurants. The Kid Packs have exercises like Botticelli spot-the-difference, Parthenon architectural vocab, Michelangelo connect-the-dots, some da Vinci Decoding (do you know he kept his journal in a secret language?!!) & even some color-in exercises for siblings with shorter legs. Fancy un-covering what our color-by-number Norman Foster ceiling at the British Museum shows?

human headed winged bull, Lamassu
Lamassus at the University of Chicago Oriental Institute of Art, Neo-Assyria (Iraq) 721-705 BC

Anyway, this THATKid Tuesday covers Mesopotamian Lamassus! These gentle giants symbolize protection and power in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ of Assyria and Babylon. Human winged bulls, I love these guys because they’re meant to be seen from different perspectives. How many legs do you see? Can you guess why they have so many legs? You can find them in many major museums, from the Louvre and British Museum and Met (NYC) across to collections in Chicago, Mumbai, Berlin and even New Haven, Connecticut. Making museum connections is so important. Lamassus also make me (strangely!) grateful to imperialism, because during a particularly painful period the terrorist group ISIS sledgehammered their own history, destroying Palmyra and defacing statues including Lamassus in museums across Syria and the Middle East.

human headed winged bulls at the British Museum
Lamassus at the British Museum: Human Headed Winged Bulls from Dur-Sharrukin (present day Khorsabad, Iraq)

You may have seen them if you’ve done a hunt at the Louvre or the British Museum. These creatures are ginormous Mesopotamian protective genies and palace gate-keepers. Serving architectural functions, they flanked gates to cities and palaces, protecting what was behind them.

You can see they have a king’s head and so have the intelligence of a human, their wings give them the swiftness of an eagle, while their powerful bodies give them the strength of a bull. A pretty good guard dog!

If you look closely you can see that they actually have five legs. Because of this, if you look at them straight on they appear to be standing at attention, guarding what’s behind them (their job, as well as the city wall or palace). But! If you look at them from the side — when you’ve been allowed to enter the gate — they look like they’re on the move. They’re doing what you’re doing as you enter the gate you’ve been allowed through, they’re walking!

human headed bulls, Lamassus
Lamassus au Louvre, from Sargon II’s palace in Dur Sharrukin (Khorsabad, Iraq)

Keep an eye out for these beauties in the Louvre, which have a whole room to themselves (above), and at the British Museum, where there are six Lamassus! If you pay careful attention, one of the British Museum Lamassus has some ancient markings between their legs (or are we being polite and it’s actually called GRAFFITI!?!). This is one of my favorite pieces in our Fun & Games treasure hunt, because it’s a 7th Century BC board game graffitied by some guards (to keep themselves entertained!)… And guess what? The REAL board game, The Royal Game of Ur, is upstairs in the British Museum (and of course another piece of treasure on that hunt!).

Any questions about Lamassus? Please leave a comment below!

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