Mesopotamia - Images from the Metropolitan Museum

Metropolitan Museum releases thousands of ancient images


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has just announced the release of more than 400,000 high-resolution digital images from its world-renowned collection, according to a news release in Art Daily .  

The now freely available images, which can be downloaded for non-commercial use, include thousands of ancient figurines, reliefs, paintings, manuscripts, and other artifacts spanning a period of 10,000 years, and covering all the great civilizations of our ancient past, as well as hundreds of cultures across the globe.

The new initiative called Open Access for Scholarly Content (OASC), means that images may be downloaded directly from the Museum’s website for non-commercial use without permission from the Museum and without a fee.  OASC was developed as a resource for students, educators, researchers, curators, academic publishers, non-commercial documentary filmmakers, and others involved in scholarly or cultural work. Prior to the establishment of OASC, the Metropolitan Museum provided images upon request, for a fee, and authorization was subject to strict terms and conditions.

“Through this new, open-access policy, we join a growing number of museums that provide free access to images of art in the public domain. I am delighted that digital technology can open the doors to this trove of images from our encyclopedic collection,” said Thomas P. Campbell, Director and CEO of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.



Here we feature just a tiny sample of the magnificent collection now available to the public.

Byzantine Floor Mosaic

Fragment of a Byzantine Floor Mosaic with a Personification of Ktisis (500–550 AD).

This fragment is an example of the exceptional mosaics created throughout the Early Byzantine world in the first half of the sixth century. The rod that she holds, the measuring tool for the Roman foot, identifies her as a personification of the abstract concept of "Ktisis," or Foundation, and symbolizes the donation, or foundation, of a building. Personifications of abstract ideas, as developed by the Stoic philosophers, remained popular in the Early Christian era.

Neo-Assyrian relief carving

Neo-Assyrian relief carving (ca. 883–859 B.C.)

The palace rooms at Nimrud were decorated with large stone slabs carved in low relief, with brightly painted walls and ceilings and sculptural figures guarding the doorways. The throne room contained narrative scenes commemorating the military victories of Ashurnasirpal, while in other areas of the palace were protective figures and images of the king and his retinue performing ritual acts. On this relief slab the king Ashurnasirpal II wears the royal crown, a conical cap with a small peak and a long diadem. He holds a bow, a symbol of his authority, and a ceremonial bowl. Facing him, a eunuch, a "beardless one," carries a fly whisk and a ladle for replenishing the royal vessel. The peaceful, perhaps religious character of the scene is reflected in the dignified composure of the figures.

Bull Leapers Fresco

Reproduction of the Bull Leapers Fresco, attributed to Emile Gilliéron père. Excavated 1901 in the Court of the Stone Spout, Knossos. (ca. 1425–1300 BC)

The well-known fresco at Knossos of a leaping bull was one of at least three similar scenes. The figural portion is framed at top and bottom by elaborate borders of overlapping variegated rock patterns between narrow bands with dentil patterns. There is no evidence to support the restored rock pattern at the sides. Two white-skinned females and a red-skinned male engage the bull, which is rendered in a flying gallop. Bull sports had a long history in Minoan art stretching back to the third millennium B.C. When this reproduction was first exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum it was identified as a circus scene. More recently, scholars have suggested that the scene represents ritual practices, perhaps symbolizing human domination over nature. The original is in the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, Crete.

Chakrasamvara Mandala

Chakrasamvara Mandala on cloth. Nepal (ca. 1100 AD)

This mandala, or ritual diagram, is conceived as the palace of the wrathful Chakrasamvara and his consort Vajravarahi, seen together at the center of the composition. These deities are important to the Newar tradition of Nepal as well as in Tibet, embodying the esoteric knowledge of Buddhist texts, the Yoga Tantras. The central divinities are surrounded by six goddesses, each set on a stylized lotus petal that forms a vajra—a feature that suggests an early date for this work. Framing the mandala are the eight great burial grounds of India, each of which is presided over by a deity beneath a tree. The cemeteries are appropriate places for meditation on Chakrasamvara and are emblematic of the various realms of existence. The lower register contains five forms of the goddess Tara as well as a tantric adept to the left and two donors on the right. This mandala is one of the earliest large-scale paintings to survive from Nepal.

Ladies in Blue fresco

Reproduction of the "Ladies in Blue" fresco. Emile Gilliéron fils, 1927.  Original on painted plaster (ca. 1525–1450 B.C.).

This group of three women was originally restored by E. Gillieron, pere on the basis of other fragments of frescos excavated before 1914 at Knossos. This copy reproduces the few fragments of burnt and abraded original fresco, represented as slightly offset from the restoration, and shows the extent to which the Gillierons recreated the scene. The original is in the Archaeological Museum of Herakleion, Crete.

View the entire collection here.

Featured image:  Neo-Assyrian relief found at Nimrud (883–859 B.C.)

By April Holloway


rbflooringinstall's picture

More museums need to be doing this.

Peace and Love,


Justbod's picture

This is great news - both to aid the study and enjoyment of ancient cultures and art forms - many thanks for sharing this!

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature:





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