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Bearded Bull’s Head

Artist Culture
Near Eastern, Mesopotamian, Sumerian
Early Dynastic III, 2600–2450 BC
2600–2450 BC
Copper with lapis lazuli and shell inlay
Associated with
Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Asia
Metalwork, sculpture
Current Location
On View, Gallery 259
9 1/4 x 9 1/16 x 4 3/4 in. (23.5 x 23 x 12.1 cm)
Credit Line
Friends Fund
Public Domain
Object Number
This powerful head cast of solid copper has a hollow in the back so that it could be attached to a larger object. The head is brought to life with inlaid eyes of lapis lazuli and shell. It was probably part of a copper relief or a three-dimensional figure that protected the façade or interior of an early temple. The bull's massive head is emphasized by a stocky muzzle and shortened horns. The addition of a curled, wide beard looks curiously natural on an animal that symbolized the sky god An. As the embodiment of fertility and power, the bearded bull served as an ever-present symbol of divine protection and royal might through centuries of ancient Near Eastern art.
by 1949 - 1951
E. S. David, Long Island City, NY, USA [1]

1951 -
Saint Louis Art Museum, purchased from E. S. David [2]

[1] E. S. David sent the head to the conservation lab at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. A letter dated April 28, 1949, from Bill Young, the conservator, to David indicates conservation work done on the bull's head [SLAM document files].

[2] Bill of sale dated November 17, 1951 [SLAM document files]. Minutes of the Administrative Board of Control of the City Art Museum, November 8, 1951.
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