WCMA Teaching the Collection, Photo by Elizabeth Leitzell
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Art of the Month Club: President Adam Falk

The Williams College Museum of Art is excited to introduce a new regular feature to our blog, the Art of the Month Club. Each month we will invite someone special to write about a work from our collection. We look forward to engaging with a variety of people through this new feature. Students, staff, faculty, artists and community members will all be called on and encouraged to participate. Find your own favorite WCMA artwork by searching our collection database. You never know, we may invite you to be the next Art of the Month Club member. Today, please welcome our first guest, Adam Falk, president of Williams College.

 

Assyrian (1000-500 B.C.E), Guardian Spirit, from the Palace at Nimrud of Ashur-nasir-pal, ca. 880 BC, gypsum, Williams Cellege Museum of Art, Gift of Sir Austen Henry Layard through Dwight W. Marsh, Class of 1842. (1851.1)_x400One of the most striking objects at WCMA is the enormous bas-relief of the King of Nimrud from the Iron Age of Man, approximately 900 B.C.E.  To be in its presence is, for me, an extraordinary experience of being transported in space and time. To gaze upon this remarkably lifelike man is to know deeply that the ancient world really did exist, and that it was inhabited by people more like us than we often appreciate. I feel, if fleetingly and faintly, as if I myself were taken to the Iron Age.  The details of the piece are remarkable – the exquisite rendering of the ear, the precision of the cuticles of the toenails of his sandaled right foot. If these aspects were rendered with such care, how could this not be the king as he actually appeared? At the least, this must be the king as the artist truly saw him, and now we see him directly, as if the 3,000 years that divide us were erased.

At bedtime, my sons and I are currently reading Homer’s Odyssey, in Richard Lattimore’s glorious translation. Our experience feels the same. Along with the great adventure of the hero Odysseus and the machinations of the gods, we see the daily life of the Mediterranean Iron Age rendered in fine detail. These women and men ate as we ate, and slept on soft beds as we sleep, wore clothing as we wear, and sat at tables and chairs as we do. The distance between us is erased, and the mists of time move off to reveal ourselves in but another place.

This, to me, is the power of the King of Nimrud.  And I’m grateful for the soft bench that stands before it, so I can sit and be transported pleasurably for as long as I like.

 

Image credit:
Assyrian (1000-500 B.C.E), Guardian Spirit, from the Palace at Nimrud of Ashur-nasir-pal, ca. 880 BC, gypsum, Williams College Museum of Art, Gift of Sir Austen Henry Layard through Dwight W. Marsh, Class of 1842. (1851.1)

 

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