Entering Salle 2 (Room 2) of the Richelieu Wing of the Louvre, I was greeted by multiple similar-looking statues with distinctive headresses. (Well, on those with in tact heads anyway!)
(I overheard a little boy entering the room say contemplatively and with wonder, “There’s lots of stones in here…lots of stones…”)
Indeed, these are stones – twelve votive images – carved from diorite and they depict one of Sumeria’s last great rulers, Gudea, Prince of Lagash. Lagash was a city-state located in what is now southeastern Iraq (ca. 2120 B.C.). The statues were originally housed in temples rebuilt by Gudea and were dedicated to his personal god, Ningishzida.
Gudea’s name means “the destined.” (Quite auspicious!)
In this the only complete rendition, and the most-detailed, Gudea wears a royal turban and a royal robe with a cuneiform inscription, has distinctive “fishbone” eyebrows, and his hands are folded in prayer. It is presumed he is praying for redemption for his people from invading barbarians. Good thing to pray for!
In stark contrast to the black diorite, in a corner of Salle 2 stands a large pink-coral stone with highly-detailed reliefs. This is the Stela of King Naram-Sin (ca. 2230 B.C.), 4th King of the Akkadian Dynasty. Crafted of pink limestone, it commemorates the battle and ultimate victory of the Akkadians over the Lullubi mountain people, ca. 2250 B.C. King Naram-Sin climbs to the sun-bathed victorious peak, wearing the horned helmet of a god. The inscription is in two languages: Akkadian and a primitive cuneiform. He is admired by his soldiers who look up to him adoringly while his enemies are trampled under his feet or thrown off a cliff.
Notice how much bigger and taller King Naram-Sin is relative to the other men in the sculpture. Also note the man trying to remove an arrow from his neck and another pleading for his life. It is a dynamic and graphic story.
I suppose the little boy was right: there are a lot of stones in Salle 2 of the Richelieu Wing. But, on closer inspection, these “stones” depict two powerful rulers from the Dawn of Civilization.
Gudea, Prince of Lagash, seated statue dedicated to the god Ningishzida. http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/gudea-prince-lagash-seated-statue-dedicated-god-ningishzida
Victory Stele of Naram-Sin. http://www.louvre.fr/en/oeuvre-notices/victory-stele-naram-sin