CHICAGO, IL.- The Art Institute of Chicago
announced a major long-term loan of a work of great significance: a copper statue called Striding Horned Figure (Shaman/Demon) believed to have been made 5,000 years ago, at the dawn of the third millennium B.C. in the area of modern southwest Iran. The statue depicts a bearded male figure wearing a horned headdress and short boots with upturned toes, with the body of a raptor over its shoulders. The figure may represent a supernatural intermediary between the earthly and spiritual worlds. The work, which had been previously been on loan to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for more than 50 years, is one of a pair of virtually identical figures, the companion belonging to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Striding Horned Figure (Shaman/Demon) is currently on view in Gallery 153 of the Art Institute of Chicago.
"This statuette and its mate have intrigued scholars, students, and aficionados of Ancient Near Eastern art and archaeology since they first appeared more than 60 years ago," said Karen Manchester, the Elizabeth McIlvaine Curator of Ancient Art and chair of the Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art at the Art Institute. "They are unlike anything we have encountered from this region and era. The quality, age, and rarity make this statuette the most important loan to the museum for its collection of ancient art. We are extremely grateful to the lender for the opportunity to present this important work to the people of Chicago."
Although the statuette features the naturalistic rendering of human anatomy and bodily proportions typical of such lowland urban centers of Mesopotamia as Sumer, the iconography of a horned being protected by a raptor's body and wearing the distinctive boots of a mountain dweller suggest it was instead the product of the Proto-Elamites, who inhabited the highland region east of the Tigris River, later known as Elam. The Proto-Elamites had a long tradition of creating figures combining human and animal forms or humans wearing the attributes of animals. They are also recognized as having highly developed metalworking skills. While images of a horned figure have been found in archaeological excavations from the region since the late Neolithic period, this statuette is a striking and prototypical example of the representational conventions of Ancient Near Eastern art and therefore profoundly important to the Art Institute's presentation of ancient art.