Those strolling throughthe Louvre’s Mesopotamian exhibition(general admission €15-€17) will encounter the stern gaze of two stone-etched guardians flanking an entrance archway: the Lamassu, protector deity of the Assyrian civilization that endured two millennia from 2500 to 600 BC.
With the body of a lion or bull, the wings of a bird andthe bearded face of a man, Lamassu (also known as Shedu) is a successor to goddess Lama in the Sumerian civilization (4500-1900 BC) depictedas a winged woman bedecked in a dress and tiara.Like Lama, Lamassu were all about protection. Common householdsburied little clay tablets of the deity under the door. Huge statues like those at the Louvre were placed to guard palace and city entrances, a more majestic home security solutions than modern-day alarm systems.Sculptors of Lamassu often cunningly added a fifth legso they appeared to be sitting seen from the front—but moving on the prowl viewed from the side. Not in Paris but still want to see a Lamassu? You’re in luck!Some of the Louvre’s Mesopotamian collection, including a Lamassu statuette, is on exhibit in the Getty Villa(free admission) in Los Angeles through August 16, 2021. East Coaster can instead see one at The Met($25 general admission) in New York.