Lion and Dragon

  • Lejon, relief från fasaden till Nebukadnessar den andres tronsal i Babylon (604–562 f Kr). RKM 4–1931. Foto: Mikael Lammgård, Röhsska museet
  • Drake, relief från Ishtarporten i Babylon (604–562 f Kr). RKM 3–1931. Foto: Mikael Lammgård, Röhsska museet

Thanks to two donors, Röhsska Museum was able to make a unique acquisition in 1931: two glazed tile reliefs were bought from Staatliche Museum in Berlin, a lion and a dragon, originally from the German excavations in Babylon. In Sweden, these are the sole representatives of the ancient Babylonians’ artistic culture. The two reliefs are permanently displayed in the Architecture Hall in connection to the Museum’s entrance.

Nebuchadnezzar II’s throne chamber
It was initially assumed that the lion relief at Röhsska Museum was one of the original 120 lions on the processional avenue to the Marduk Temple in Babylon. However, it later became apparent that Röhsska Museum’s lion is from the façade to Nebuchadnezzar II’s throne chamber (604-562 BCE). The biggest difference between the lions from the throne chamber and those from the processional avenue is that the former have upright tails and the latter have them lowered. The lion symbolises the Assyrian-Babylonian goddess Ishtar, identified with the Sumerian Inanna, and the dragon was the holy animal of the god Marduk. The reliefs both measure 181 x 114 cm and are made of tiles about 32.5 cm in length that are laid lengthwise. The tiles are shaped so that the depicts animal bodies are in relief. After being fired, they were overlaid with enamel glaze.

Ancient cultural era
In 1932, Gustaf Munthe wrote the following about the two reliefs: “As architectural decoration they belong to the most decoratively effective ever made. They are also of interest from many other perspectives, not least purely ceramic. Foremost, through their presence, they will remind us of an ancient cultural era of a rare status, and of the city that was once the world’s biggest and most admired. But even those who’ve never heard of the old Babylon can appreciate the lion and the dragon. They are timeless in the best way, that which characterises great art.”
RKM 31931, RKM 41931

Category: About the museum