Between the banks of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers flourished one of the most outstanding ancient cultures of all time, the Mesopotamian culture. There are numerous archaeological, artistic and documentary remains of this unique culture that have survived to this day and among all of them, we can and must highlight the numerous sculptures that represent Gudea de Lagash. These have become a traditional icon of Mesopotamian art, numerous representations of this prince flood the manuscripts on Mesopotamian culture, elevating him to the category of an icon.
Gudea belonged to the Second Dynasty and became one of the most prominent princes -he was never proclaimed king- of ancient Mesopotamia of the Sumerian era. There are multiple chronicles that tell us about this prince who, in addition to representing the traditional figure of the warrior or supreme priest, was also widely involved in the culture or in the administration of his city, carrying out important reforms and constructions.
More than twenty-five different sculptures representing Gudea are preserved but only one, exhibited today in the Louvre Museum in Paris, is intact: the sculpture of Gudea seated. It is a free-standing work with a round shape, made of black dorite stone and dating from around 2130 BC. The choice of material, a rare stone andvery difficult to carve, it already tells us about the important social position in which this character found himself.
Gudea appears seated on a small throne, facing forward and with his hands crossed in front, resting them on his knees. The piece has been carved from a single block of stone and the characteristics of archaism are evident in the figure. In this way we can observe how the figure does not become completely naturalistic but its proportions are too small, a fact that is perhaps more concealed when seated but that we could undoubtedly appreciate better if the figure were standing. The figure is completely frontal, in a posture that rejects any movement, with a marked law of frontality and a rigid hieratic.
The face of the figure is framed by a kind of turban with geometric symbols of spirals. His face is round with wide almond-shaped eyess – a trait also typical of archaic sculpture that will spread throughout the Mediterranean, finding it in other sculptures such as the Greek ones- framed by wide eyebrows that with a large curvature serve to give greater expressiveness to the figure. His nose is straight and in his mouth we appreciate the echoes of a very slight smile. Actually, we are not faced with any claim to portraiture but rather the opposite, since it is an idealized figure. His hands and feet don't look well sketched as the greatest interest is in the prince's face.
ByFinally, note how on the tunic that serves as his clothing, the artist has captured Gudea's identity in cuneiform writing, as well as his role in the construction of different temples.