Ancient Near East, Mesopotamia, Babylon, ca. 2000 to 1600 BCE. A press-molded terracotta plaque featuring the intimidating countenance of the legendary demon giant Humbaba with thick-lidded eyes, a broad nose, wrinkled jowls that coalesce at the bottom to form the chin, a toothy grimace, and a vertically straited coiffure. In Akkadian mythology, Humbaba (Assyrian) or Huwawa (Babylonian/Sumerian) was a monstrous demon giant who personified Styx, the river of the dead. Humbaba was also the guardian of the Forest of the Cedars where the other gods resided. Size: 2.3" W x 2.625" H (5.8 cm x 6.7 cm); 3.875" H (9.8 cm) on included custom stand.
The most famous Mesopotamian story - entitled "The Epic of Gilgamesh" - narrates how Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out on an adventure to the Cedar Forest to slay Humbaba. Once they find Humbaba, the giant demon renowned for his terrifying, supernatural radiance, they beat him nearly to death. Humbaba's pleas for mercy were almost granted, however Enkidu convinces Gilgamesh to finally kill the beast and achieve global fame for the rest of time; subsequently, Gilgamesh acquiesces to his friend's suggestion and beheads the dreaded monster. The severed head of Humbaba was then affixed to a cedar door and sent to the temple of Enlil, king of the gods. This literary detail may explain the abundance of clay plaques depicting Humbaba’s wrinkled and terrifying face as they were perhaps primarily used as charms against evil and may have been hung on entrances to homes or businesses.
For a stylistically similar example, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 55.162.1.
For another, more similar example, please see The British Museum, museum number 127439.
Provenance: ex-private prominent D.K. collection, New York, USA, acquired in the 2000s
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Minor nicks and abrasions to face, peripheries, and verso, with light encrustations, and minor softening to some finer details, otherwise intact and excellent. Light earthen deposits throughout, and nice remaining facial details. Old inventory label on verso.