Fragment of a Bas-Relief: Head of a Median Tribute-Bearer

732-705 BC

Gypseous alabaster

H. 23.5 cm ; W. 18 cm ; D. 7.9 cm


Acquired by Rodin on 4 March 1908 from the antiquarian Spiridon Castellanos.

This relief comes from the decorative frieze in a corridor leading to the main courtyard of the Assyrian King Sargon II’s palace in Khorsabad (present-day Iraq), discovered in 1843.


The head belongs to the scene showing a procession of tribute-bearers from all the surrounding countries, bringing offerings to the king in sign of their submission. It is a portrait of a tribute- bearer from Media, an area northwest of Iran, recognizable from his beard and short hair carved in concentric circles, held down by a headband.


Rodin purchased this head described as “savage, withdrawn, locked in a dream of conquest and carnage” in 1908. The sculptor admired the sensuality and warlike character of this art which he first saw in the early 1880s at the British Museum, London. He made sketches there of bearded men and lion’s heads, which he then incorporated into his work on the Bust of Victor Hugo, in 1883.

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