A Sumerian Limestone Bull Cup, Late Uruk/Jemdet Nasr Period, ca. 3100-2900 BCE
Object No: MV1401
Conical in form on a flat base, the sides boldly carved in raised relief with three bulls in a procession to the right, each with its head turned out, with large oval eyes, short downturned horns, an undulating border above the base.
This fragmentary bowl is decorated with a procession of bulls moving to the right, although only one complete animal survives. Typical of the Late Uruk and Jemdet Nasr periods, the body of the animal is carved in low relief while its head, turned to face the viewer, is fully three-dimensional. Such an extraordinary sculpture was developed at the end of the fourth millennium B.C., when cities emerged across Mesopotamia. Vessels of this type have been frequently found in palaces or religious structures, which suggests that they had a special function in such settings. After cylinder seals, they are the most important source of pictorial information for the period. The pictures are drawn from the natural realm, often portraying an ordered world of domesticated animals.
Background: Uruk was dedicated to two great gods, An (or Anu) the sky god and Inanna, the goddess of love and procreation, better known under her Semitic name of Ishtar, whose vast temple complex E-Anna (the house of heaven) dominated the city. Stone vessels of this type - highly prized luxury goods made of imported stone and carved with great skill - dating to the late Uruk period were often found in temples or palaces. Bull cups are thought to have been made for ceremonial use in temples (the sacred herd motif of processing bulls is known from cups and cylinder seals of this period) and may be associated with fertility cults; Inanna's husband Dumuzi-Tammuz was closely associated with vegetation, flocks and cattle and the cult of the sacred marriage between them, with its associated rites designed to ensure productivity and fertility, originated at Uruk.
For a similar stone bowl decorated with bulls see, J. Aruz (ed.), Art of the First Cities, exhibition catalogue, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2003, p. 42, no. 12, for a stone bowl with bulls in relief in the Vorderasiatische Museum, Berlin, no. VA 10113; "The considerable work involved in creating stone vessels and the fact that the stone was imported gave them great value. While fragile ceramic vessels had to be continually replaced and therefore likely to reflect changes in taste ... stone vessels tended to be produced in a limited range of shapes and to be used for generations."
Published: Concordia University, catalogue number: FOT-46.
Condition: Heavy loss to the upper rim of the cup, but one complete bull remains. Beautifully carved, in excellent condition.
Dimensions: Height: 7.98cm (3 1/8 inches) from the top of the bull head. Width: 2.54cm (1 inch) from the base of the cup.
Provenance: The Diniacopoulos Family Collection, prior to 1951. Vincent and Olga Diniacopoulos arrived in Montreal from Alexandria in 1951, bringing with them the largest private collection of antiquities known in Canada. These objects represent an array of cultures: prehistoric Mediterranean, Greek, Roman, Etruscan, Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Luvian, Syro-Palestinian, and Hittite. The family owned an art gallery on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, Ars Classica, and continued to buy and sell artifacts until the death of Vincent in 1967. Towards the end of her life, Olga Diniacopoulos asked Concordia University to assist with the management of the antiquities collection. Some of the artifacts were acquired by Canadian institutions: statues from Thebes and a few Greek red-figure vases were acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Art Conservation program at Queen’s University acquired fragments of painted Greek pottery intended as teaching tools. The remainder of the collection was dispersed in the late 1990s through Sotheby’s (New York) and Fragments of Time (Boston). Thereafter, private collection of S. Bono, Chicago.
Sands of Time provides a lifetime, unconditional guarantee of authenticity and provenance. Every artifact purchased from us is accompanied by a Certificate of Authenticity, stating culture, provenance and age. Furthermore, we conduct due diligence to ensure the item, to the best of our knowledge, has not been illegally obtained from an excavation, architectural monument, public institution or private property. Wherever possible, reference is made to existing collections or publications.
Sands of Time Antiquities are proud to uphold the following Code of Conduct:
- We undertake to make, to the best of our ability, all purchases in good faith.
- We undertake not to purchase or sell objects until we have established, to the best of our ability, that such objects were not stolen from excavations, architectural monuments, public institutions or private property.
- We will not dismember and sell separately parts of one complete object.
- We undertake to the best of ability to keep objects together that were originally meant to be kept together.
- As appropriate we will keep photographic records of objects prior to repair and restoration, to be honest and open by describing in writing the amount of repair and restoration undertaken to a prospective purchaser.
- To the best of our ability, we guarantee authenticity and provenance of all objects offered for sale.
- Deposit: A deposit of 15% of the total price is required upon purchase.
- Checkout: Order through our website and select the "layaway" option at checkout.
- Flexibility: You are not restricted to a set monthly payment; pay what you wish when you wish, however your balance must be paid within six months of the order date or you risk forfeiture.
- Title: Property title remains with Sands of Time Antiquities, Inc. until payment is made in full.
- Shipment: Once payment is complete, we will ship your order by the next business day.
Should you cancel your layaway purchase, a 15% restocking-fee will apply. If you exchange or trade-up the objet purchased while it is on layaway, the restocking fee for the original purchase will not apply. If you would like to take advantage of our layaway system or would like to discuss an alternative option that better suits your budget, please contact us via e-mail or call 1-202-342-0518.