THATKid Tuesday: Lamassu

THATKid Tuesday is a dose of Art History terms 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 travelling families exercises. I made one 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 and have found it useful to give Storsh and Balthazar these exercises at restaurants when travelling. The Kid Packs have art fun such as a Botticelli spot-the-difference, Michelangelo connect-the-dots, some da Vinci Decoding (do you know he kept his journal in a secret language?!!) or even some color-in exercises for smaller siblings.

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

This time we’re going to look at Lamassus! Human winged bulls, I love these guys because they’re meant to be seen from different perspectives. How many legs do you see? More on that below. You can find them in so many major museums, from the Louvre and British Museum and Met (NYC) across to OI in Chicago, India and Berlin. Making museum connections is so important. But I also find myself -strangely – grateful to imperialism, because during a particularly painful period ISIS sledgehammered their own history at Palmyra and in museums, including defacing lamassus.

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 were enormous Mesopotamian protective genies and palace gate-keepers.

You can see they have a king’s head and so have the intelligence of a human, their wings give them the swiftness of a bird, 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 being architectural functions). But! If you look at them from the side, 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 you’ll find 6 of them. If you pay careful attention to them in the British Museum you might spot some ancient markings (or are we being polite and it’s actually called GRAFFITI!?!) on one of them: a 7th Century BC board game graffitied on by some guards to keep themselves entertained!

Any questions about Lamassu? Please leave a comment below!

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