Guennol Lioness

Guennol Lioness

The Guennol Lioness is a 5000-year-old Mesopotamian statue found near Baghdad, Iraq. Depicting a well-muscled anthropomorphic lioness, it sold for $57.2 million at Sotheby's auction house on December 5 2007. The price was the highest ever paid for a sculpture in history. The piece was acquired by private collector Alastair Bradley Martin in 1948 and has been on display in New York's Brooklyn Museum of Art ever since.

The limestone piece, measuring just over eight centimeters (3 1/4 inches) tall, was described by Sotheby's auction house as "one of the last known masterworks from the dawn of civilization remaining in private hands." [ [ Agence France-Presse, displayed at, 12/5/2007] ] One day before the auction, experts mostly estimated the highest bid to be between $14 million and $18 million.It also beat the 28.6 million dollars paid for "Artemis and the Stag," [ [ Bronze Sculpture of Artemis and the Stag Brings $28.6M at Sotheby's and Sets World Record ] ] a 2,000-year-old bronze figure which sold also at Sotheby's in New York in June, 2007 and held the record for the most expensive antiquity to be sold at auction.


The "Lioness Demon", a 5,000-year-old Elamite figure created ca. 3000-2800 BC, was listed as belonging to the Brooklyn Museum of Art until it was auctioned off to an English collector. [ [ CultureGrrl: ] ] Its historical significance is that it was created at about the same time when the first known use of the wheel, the development of cuneiform writing, and the emergence of the first cities were recorded. [ [ Chess, Goddess and Everything: Guennol Lioness To Be Auctioned ] ] [ [ Art Daily] ]

These humanlike animal figures can be seen in the top and bottom registers of the trapezoidal front panel from the famous Great Lyre from the "King's Grave" (ca. 2650-2550 BC), which was discovered by British archaeologist Sir Leonard Woolley early in the 20th century at Ur in present-day Iraq.


A great deal of ancient Near East deities were represented in anthropomorphic figures, i.e. merged human and animal features. Such humanlike animal images evoked the Mesopotamians' belief in attaining power over the physical world by combining the superior physical attributes of various species.The nearby Sumerians possibly borrowed this powerful artistic hybrid from the Proto-Elamites. [Porada, Edith. “A Leonine Figure of the Protoliterate Period of Mesopotamia,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 70, No. 4. (Oct.-Dec. 1950), 223-226.]

ee also

*Aruz, Joan (ed.), et al. Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus (exh. cat.). New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003, 42-44, 105-107.
*Zettler, Richard L. and Lee Horne (eds.). Treasures from the Royal Tombs of Ur (exh. cat.). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Museum, 1998, 53-57.


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