Old Babylonian Limestone Dog of Gula, Goddess of Health
Near Eastern · Old Babylonian, ca. 1900-1584 B.C.
L: 97.5 cm (39 in)
H: 51 cm (25 in)
This majestic dog strides with confidence and grace with his long tail poised behind him. Wearing a braided collar that still bears traces of its original dark red pigment, this animal possesses a sense of strength and quiet power. His body is muscular and taut, and the proportions of the animal are refined. The facial features, including the wrinkles of his muzzle and folds of skin around his neck, are stylized, adding to the aesthetic appeal of this work of art. The type of dog depicted is most likely a mastiff, which is often depicted in Old Babylonian art.
This magnificent relief was probably part of a large architectural complex, such as a religious altar or shrine, due to the sacred nature of the dog in the Ancient Near Easter religion. In turn, the monumental scale of this relief and the refined execution and composition suggest that this was a commission of the highest order. It most likely represents the personification of Health, as the dog often stood as a substitute to the actual depiction of the goddess of Health, Gula. As this is a fragment of a larger scene, Gula herself may have accompanied this powerful beast, an animal that certainly embodies physical perfection and prowess.
Reassembled from two parts (a vertical junction across neck/chest area); surface weathered and chipped; a large dent on the lower part of the belly; traces of dark-red color over the plaited leash.
Art market, prior to 1940;
Ex- private collection, Italy-Switzerland, acquired before 1940;
Imported to the US in 2001.
Phoenix Ancient Art 2020 / 39, no. 18
Sense and Sensibility: Women in Antiquity, 2021