Lot 2245: Western Asiatic Akkadian Gilgamesh Cylinder Seal
December 9, 2016
London, United KingdomLive Auction
Description: Old Akkadian, late 3rd millennium BC. A black agate cylinder seal with intaglio scenes of contest between a human hero (Gilgamesh), two figures with curved necks and horses' manes, two lamassus, amid bushes and foliage. 36 grams, 34mm (1 1/2"). Private collection, London, UK; formerly with Persepolis Gallery, Mayfair, London, UK; in the 1980s. It is widely believed that Gilgamesh was a historical king of the Sumerian city of Uruk some time during the Early Dynastic Period. By the Later Dynastic Period this figure had been transformed into a deity and was already being worshipped at a number of different places in Sumer. He was considered the patron deity of a number of kings and is described as 'divine brother' on a number of inscriptions. There are five independent narrative poems that date to the first half of the second millennium BC and which collectively relate the myths associated with the god. These are, 'Gilgamesh and Agga', which relates to the rebellion of Gilgamesh against his overlord and benefactor, King Agga of Kish. 'Gilgamesh and the Cedar Forest', relates how the hero and his friend Enkidu defeat and kill the monster Humbaba, who had been appointed by the god Enlil as guardian of the cedar forest. 'Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven', tells how the heroic duo defeat and kill a bull that had been sent by the goddess Ishtar after he had rejected her sexual advances. 'The Death of Gilgamesh' is poorly preserved, but seems to relate to the state funeral of Gilgamesh and his arrival in the underworld. In 'Gilgamesh, Enkidu and the Nether World', Gilgamesh questions the spirit of Enkidu about conditions in the underworld. By the Old Babylonian Period these stories had been elaborated into one grand epic which survives in twelve fragmentary tablets, first discovered in the library of the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal at his capital of Nineveh. Such was the popularity of Gilgamesh that he is one of the most commonly depicted images on cylinder seals from across Mesopotamia.
Condition Report: Very fine condition. Very rare.