Room IX is dedicated to reliefs from Assyria (northern Iraq), dating from between the ninth and twelfth century B.C. The undertakings of kings who extended the boundaries of history’s first great empire from Persia to the Mediterranean, from Anatolia to Egypt, were impressed on the walls of the great palatial complexes of Khorsabad, Nimrud and Kuyunjik, by means of the production of cycles of sculpted reliefs characterised by their monumentality and minute detail.
The subject, epic-narrative and mythical-symbolic, is expressed through the representation of scenes of hunting, war, processions of dignitaries, the transport of sculptures, and mythological figures. These images follow one another along the walls of the palaces according to a precise design for the celebration of Assyrian greatness, whose images and texts are linked to the figure of the sovereign and at the same time the majesty of the building.
These reliefs also represent Europe’s first great discovery of Mesopotamian art, as they were among the first artefacts to re-emerge in the nineteenth century following the archaeological expeditions in Mesopotamia. They became the fundamental nuclei of great museums such as the Louvre and the British, but were party dispersed in minor collections and museums from India to America. Some reliefs from the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, originating from Nineveh, were donated to Pope Pius IX in 1855 by Giovanni Bennhi, an Iraqi Catholic from Mosul, who participated in various archaeological excavations in Mesopotamia.