Our survey will show that the majority of the examples Urartian art which are known today can be classified as palace-art, and their purpose was to convey a strong impression of wealth, magnificence and power. This is clearly seen, for example, in the state throne, whose sculptured parts, now scattered to various museums all over the world, will be described in detail in the succeeding chapter. The gold and the many-coloured stones which decorated it gave an impression of barbaric splendour and luxury, and the expressive figures of terrifying mythical creatures served both to strike superstitious fear into those standing in front of the throne and to shield the king, when he sat on it, from evil powers.
The relief decoration on the shields, helmets and quivers which which bear dedicatory inscriptions of of Urartian kings may also be classified as palace-art. Their decoration frequently consists of repeated figures of lions, bulls and other creatures, which were embodiments of power. It is no accident that on the Assyrian palace reliefs, whose purpose was to display the king's exploits, he is shown hunting lions and wild bulls. Accounts of these hunts occur in the royal annals, and in poetic imagery the king himself appears as the wild ox, the lion or the eagle. Sometimes theanimals are replaced on war-gear by rhythmical processions of alternate chariots and mounted warriors, and sometimes also by sacred trees with divinities standing on either side of them. On the fronts of the helmets there are gods arranged in two rows and framed by mythical snakes with lions' heads. The purpose of the latter must have been to strengthen the protective power of the other figures on the warrior's helmet.
 As we shall show, all the examples of Urartian palace-art are very close in style to Assyrian work, and as a result they were for a long time taken to be Assyrian; and Urartian art was regarded as a provincial version of Assyrian. In general works on the art of the ancient East, and in the displays of the greatest museums of Western Europe, Urartian work for a long time was not distinguished from Assyrian.
It is quite understandable that Urartian and Assyrian art should be connected, for in the ninth century B.C. the influence of Assyria, one of the most powerful states at that time in Western Asia, affected very strongly the nascent state ol Urartu. The earliest inscriptions of Urartian kings were written in Assyrian, and they not only used the cuneiform script which they took over at first hand from the Assyrians, but they also borrowed the form of Assyrian historical texts The art of painting reached the Urartian palaces from the palaces of Assyria, and brought with it ready-made decorative schemes and ornamental motives. The names of many of the Urartian gods began to be written in the inscriptions by means of Assyrian ideograms, and they were represented in an Assyrian guise. A little later the Urartians adopted Assyrian military equipment, as well as many other elements of Assyrian culture.
Yet in spite of the important part which borrowing played in the formation of Urartian palace-art, its individual traits and peculiarities stand out very definitely. This has already been pointed out by the Turkish archaeologist E. Akurgal, who was the first to study Urartian art. In practice, in spite of their superficial resemblance, it is always possible to distinguish Urartian work from Assyrian. Stocky human figures, with a characteristic facial profile, and executed comparatively clumsily, are very typical of Urartian art, which at the same time showed incomparable skill in representing animals, with their bodies treated in a richly ornamental fashion. It is clear that these stylized animals have developed a long way from realistic representations. Their bodies look as if they were covered with richly decorated horse-cloths or rugs. Fine engraving is used for decoration, consisting of straight, oblique and wavy lines and of curls and circles. All the animals in Urartian art are represented in a state of repose. As Akurgal aptly remarks, the lions on the shields are 'out for a stroll', and only the snarling jaws express the fury of a wild beast.
Before considering the distinctive features of Urartian art we must dwell for a moment on its general characteristics. "Urartian art is fundamentally decorative, and ornament, often employing motives drawn from the vegetable kingdom (gurlands of buds, palmettes, rosettes, stylized trees) plays an important part in it. Representations of animals and human beings are also usually subordinate to a decorative purpose, and they are arranged in bands to form rows of single or alternating figures, some facing one way and some another. Particularly clear examples of the decorative layout can be seen on the circular bronze shields, on which, in spite of the fact that the figures are arranged in concentric bands, not one of them appears upside-down (figs. 4, 5, 6). In these cases composition is often replaced by a grouping of the elements of the design according to their kind.
In the destroyed cemetery near Arin-berd there were found fragments of bronze
[Figure 4: Bronze shield of Argishti I. Karmir Blur. (Armenian Historical Museum)]
[Figure 5: Bronze shield of Sarduri II. Karmir Blur. (Armenian Historical Museum) and Figure 6: A lion and a bull from the shield of Sarduri II]
 belts on which, arranged in horizontal bands, there were representations of chariots with warriors in them shooting at running lions and bulls (fig. 7). Here we have unmistakable elements of a hunting-scene, but in the interests of decorative effect the individual figure are arranged alternately, and all of them—chariots, bulls, lions—are represented in an absolutely identical fashion.
In the cemetery at the village of Tli, in southern Ossetia, B. V. Tekhov found an interesting bronze belt decorated with various figures arranged in bands, among which there were chariots exactly like those on the belts from Arin-berd. The composition on the belt from Tli has broken up, however, for the chariots and the running bulls and lions are placed side by side with no connection between them, and ornamental motives have been added to separate them. This disintegration of the composition and the transformation of its parts into pure ornament can be clearly seen on other Urartian bronze belts, both from the Urartian fortress of Teishebaini (Karmir Blur) and from cemeteries in Transcaucasia (fig. 8. p. 23).
We do not know anything about composition in Urartian monumental art. It is likely that it consisted of processions of gods standing on animals and of scenes of sacrifice, all of an artificial and conventional kind.
There is greater variety in the smaller products of Urartian art, especially on the seals. These show scenes of sacrifice before stelae, of prayer and sacrifice before gods, a royal procession and a chariot (probably the royal chariot) being escorted by musicians and others. But even on the seals we can observe the tendency towards artfficial treatment. In particular, the figure of Teisheba standing on a bull on a miniature seal from Karmir Blur differs only in scale and in details of ornament from the figure of the same god on the great relief from Adilcev . Both representations are based on an artificial scheme which had to be followed. A small figure engraved on a seal, a shield or a quiver can be greatly enlarged without distorting its nature as a work of art. The custom of working to a single scheme led to an economical and monumental as well as slightly heraldic, artistic style. Adherence to prescribed forms, particularly pottery-forms, led to artistic perfection in pot-making. A great store of over a thousand red polished wine-jugs was found in one of the store-rooms at Teishebaini. They were all very similar to each other in shape, having the same slightly egg-shaped bodies, and the same elegant curve of the handle. Jugs of a different shape turned up in another store-room; they had a more rounded body, and a rounded handle, and there can be no doubt that they came if not from a different work-shop at least from the hands of a different craftsman. In both cases we see remarkable perfection of form which was attained because the potter did not endeavour to make jugs of different sorts, but confined himself to a single shape.
In this way there occurred in Urartian art a constant copying of artistic forms, governed by a firm tradition, and this explains why bronze shields of one of the last Urartian kings, Rusa son of Erimena, who lived at the beginning of the sixth century B. C., were decorated with the same motives as those of his distant predecessor, king Argishti son of Menua (first quarter of the eighth century B.C.).
[Figure 7: Fragments of bronze belts from a cemetary near Arin-berd. (Armenian Historical Museum)]
 The constant copying of a single figure leads to its simplification and stylization. Art-historians have often pointed out that continuous copying leads to simplification and stylization of the original, and sometimes to distortion to the point of being unrecognizable. Once, when I was still a student, I made the following test: I took a drawing of a running horse from A. E. Brem's The Life of Animals and gave it to various people in succession to copy. Already by the tenth copy the horse had become schematized, and was going at a walk.
The strong tendency to schematize the shapes of animals, and the decoration of their homes with delicate and elaborate geometric ornament, both of which are characteristic of Urartian art, are undoubtedly connected with continuous copying of a single conventionalized animal shape. The artist did not attempt to depart from the pattern which had been elaborated through the ages, and adopted it equally for work on a monumental or a miniature scale. In spite of the fact that the Urartian method of representing animals and of rendering details is in the last resort based on Assyrian models, Urartian art carries ornamentation to a much greater richness, and does so in an individual fashion which can always be unerringly recognized.
In this connection the Scythian sword-scabbards from the Kelermes and Melgunov burial mounds are of particular interest. The scabbard from the latter mound shows clearly the difference in treatment between those animals which are done in the Scythian style and those which are borrowed from Urartian art. The stag on the side-projection of the scabbard is completely free from any decorative treatment of its surface, while the mythical creatures on the scabbard itself bear perfectly typical Urartian decoration. A gold bowl from the Kelermes mounds is decorated with animals done in an absolutely simple style. The way they are treated recalls most of all the animals on the reliefs from the palace of Ashur-bani-pal at Nineveh. This resemblance is confirmed by the figures of running birds (ostriches) which are placed around the edge of the bowl, and which have close parallels in Assyrian glyptic, as well as in the birds on the seal of Urzana, king of Musasir, which is itself executed in an Assyrian style.
The animals on the Kelermes cup differ from the mythical creatures on the scabbard in that the rendering of their muscles and hair has not yet been changed into a dry linear decorative scheme. (See Appendix B, p. 97.)
A fixed canon played an important part in the art of the whole ancient East; there were definite rules for representing the human figure (head and body in profile, shoulders frontal) and for representing animals and trees. When building up a composition the artist constantly made use of models and conventional forms, observing strictly the established proportions. Even on monuments of Assyrian art which are well known from general handbooks, such as the hunting-scenes on the reliefs from the palaces of Ashur-nasir-pal II (Kalhu) and Ashur-bani-pal (Nineveh), we see clearly the use of various models, not only for whole figures, but for parts of them as well. Thus, on the relief of Ashur-nasir-pal showing a lion-hunt, the incongruity between the rushing chariot and the calm figure of the lion which rests its front paws  on the back of it leaps to the eye. So does the figure of the king, who is shooting with a bow, and is so placed that the arrow will inevitably miss the lion. If we look carefully at the representations of lions and lionesses on the famous lion-hunting reliefs of Ashur-bani-pal it becomes clear that the various animals are made up by combining models of heads, bodies and paws.
There can be no doubt that Urartian artists made constant use of models and stereotyped patterns, and were obliged to follow rules of proportion. This explains the monumental quality of Urartian art. The figures on the state throne, and the representations of animals and horsemen on the shields and helmets, have, in spite of their small dimensions, a strict monumental form, and will stand any amount of enlargement.
In spite of the apparent monotony of Urartian art, E. Akurgal has endeavoured to pick out different styles. He pointed out that a 'ringlet-style' (Ringelstil) is particularly characteristic of objects belonging to the eighth century B.C., and that later, from the seventh century, an 'embossed style' (Buckelstil) develops alongside it. These two styles do exist in Urartian art, but without causing any alteration in the general shape of the figures.
The study of different styles in Urartian art is made very much more difficult by the limited quantity of the available material. Apart from this, it is very clear that Urartian art received influences not only from Assyrian culture but also from Hittite (Hurrian). E. Akurgal is fully justified in underlining the late Hittite (Aramean) influence which can be seen in many examples of Urartian art, particularly in the cauldron-mounts.
Urartian art exercised a distinct influence on the art of Urartu's western neighbours, particularly in the period when the Urartians seized control of the trade-routes to the Mediterranean. It is likely that many items of Urartian art were exported to the west from the centre of the kingdom, and it has been suggested that separate cauldron-handles were carried to the west to be attached to locally-made cauldrons. At the same time, undoubtedly, Urartian art influenced its neighbours, who themselves began to make things in the Urartian style; and this explains the great artistic variety which can be seen in widely-scattered handle-mounts in the form of winged figures with human bodies and of bulls' heads.
The connections between Urartian culture and the Mediterranean, which became established in the eighth century B.C., were not one-sided, and one of the most important problems in the history of Western Asia is to clarify the interrelation of the Mediterranean, Syrian and Urartian cultures in the first centuries of the first millennium B.C. In Greek sanctuaries and in Etruscan tombs there have been found not only the handle-mounts of bronze cauldrons, proving connections with Western Asia, but other objects as well. For example, an ivory figurine of a naked goddess was found at Delphi which bears a great resemblance to a figurine of a goddess from Van, also of ivory. The connection of many ornamental elements in archaic Greek art with Western Asia and with Asia Minor has been pointed out long ago; and the  striking similarity between the Urartian temple at Musasir, of the ninth century B.C., and early Greek temples, emphasizes the important part which the cultures of Western Asia played in the formation of classical civilization.
Recently R. Ghirshman has raised the question of the influence of Urartian culture on that of Achaemenid Iran, and has given us a valuable discussion of the problem. The Sakkiz treasure and the material from the excavation at Karmir Blur show clearly the connections of Scythian art, by way of Urartu, with the ancient East; and M. I. Artamonov has brought to our notice the possibility that the ancient East may have contributed to the formation of Scythian art.
The study of the influence of Urartu on the civilization of ancient Transcaucasia is a large and separate subject in itself.
The first-known Urartian antiquities have been in the Hermitage for more than a hundred years, but only in the last thirty years has the study of Urartian civilization reached a stage of intensive development which has enabled us to establish clearly the importance of Urartu in the history of the ancient East, especially in the period of transition to classical antiquity.
[Figure 8: Figures on a bronze helmet of Sarduri II. (Armenian Historical Museum)]
to Chapter 3, A Survey of Urartian Art
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