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Identification and Creation

Object Number
183 Fragments of Two Wall Paintings from Nuzi, with accompanying watercolor drawings
Work Type
mural painting
1500-1350 BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, Nuzi (Mesopotamia)
Mitannian period
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Painted mud-plaster
sight: 40.01 x 74.93 cm (15 3/4 x 29 1/2 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Excavated from Yorghan Tepe, Iraq

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Harvard-Baghdad Expedition to Kirkuk
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Geometric border-type design showing squares with masks (animal, human)
Traces of color on the fragments suggested that many rooms of the Palace of Nuzi had been painted. Although most of the wall painting was of only a solid color, a few elaborately decorated fragments survived and were still vibrant enough to be photographed and drawn in situ. The excavators cut out and packaged a substantial portion of the mudbrick wall upon which the elaborate wall painting was executed. The hope was to carefully extract and preserve the design under more controlled laboratory conditions, but the fragments did not survive shipping intact.

Luckily, the designs had been copied by the excavation's architect Emmanuel Wilensky while still in situ, and these drawings represented the ruined wall paintings in exhibits for both the Fogg and Semitic Museums. Wilensky's original field copies have since been lost; although the Semitic Museum has photographs of these drawings taken soon after completion. Before the loss of Wilensky's drawings, however, Edward Forbes, director of the Fogg Museum, had new color copies made for the Fogg Museum.

Helen Gilman and Lucille Chabot, members of the Fogg Museum staff, created the watercolor copies of Wilensky's drawings between 1941 and 1943, using the original mudbrick fragments for color reference. The Gilman/Chabot Nuzi wall painting reproductions were framed and displayed in the Fogg Museum and other Harvard buildings between 1943 and 1992.

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