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An alabaster relief showing the side profile of a bearded man. His beard is long and made of many tight curls and he wears a domed headpiece.

A rectangular, alabaster relief showing the side profile of a bearded man. The man is looking to the viewer’s left and is closer to the left side edge of the stone. His beard is long and made of many tight curls and he wears a domed headpiece. Long, tightly curled hair comes out from the back of the headpiece. He wears a thick earring and tassel necklace. The entire piece is grey with some brown discoloration.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Fragment of a Wall Relief: Head of a Winged Protective Spirit
Work Type
relief, sculpture
883-859 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Assyria
Neo-Assyrian period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

65.5 cm h x 50.5 cm w x 10 cm d (25 13/16 x 19 7/8 x 3 15/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Sir Henry Layard, (by 1848), gift; to Lady Charlotte Guest Schreiber, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, (1848-1895), by inheritance; to Captain Vere Brabazon Ponsonby, Ninth Earl of Bessborough, (by 1895). [Spink and Son, Ltd, London, by 1939-1940], sold; to Fogg Art Museum, 1940.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mrs. Percival Lombard, Mrs. John Bartol, Miss Dorothy Bartol, Mr. and Mrs. Frederick R. Grace, and the Alpheus Hyatt Purchasing Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Representing the head of a winged genie, or protective spirit, this relief fragment was part of the wall decoration of the throne room of King Ashurnasirpal II's Northwest Palace at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu) in Iraq. Placed to the right of the throne base, the genie - wearing the horned cap of a deity - was probably performing a ritual. It was one of several representations of genies intended to ensure the protection of this important room. Across the genie's body ran Ashurnasirpal II's "standard inscription," giving the titles and the achievements of the Assyrian king. Hunt and battle scenes carved on the long walls of the room conveyed a similar message. The appearance of these reliefs was originally enhanced by paint. This particular fragment was presented by Sir Austen Henry Layard, the excavator of Nimrud, to his cousin, Lady Charlotte Guest, in 1848.

Publication History

  • Frederick Randolph Grace, "An Assyrian Winged Genius", Bulletin of the Fogg Art Museum (1940), Vol. 9, No. 2, 22-28, cover ill.
  • John Malcolm Russell, From Nineveh to New York: the strange story of the Assyrian reliefs in the Metropolitan Museum and the hidden masterpiece at Canford Manor, Metropolitan Museum of Art / Yale University Press (New Haven, 1997), Chapter 3
  • Klaudia Englund, Nimrud Und Seine Funde, VML, Verlag Marie Leidorf (Rahden, 2003), p. 52
  • Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)

Exhibition History

  • Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/22/2007 - 01/20/2008
  • Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011
  • 32Q: 3460 East Arcade, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/28/2021

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project
  • Collection Highlights

Verification Level

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at