The Votive of Gudea

TheVotive of Gudea

Thevotive of Gudea is a representation of a calm Akkadian leader. Hechallenged to rebuild the inordinate Lagash temples and aced outthese sculptures may be as an identity symbol in the Akkadian templesand empire at large. The sculptures date back to 2000 B.C. The mainmaterial used in the artwork is diorite (a famous expensivematerial/rock during these eras). The statue is about 0.44 meterstall though it illustrates a leader in a sitting position. Thesculpture is believed to have been made in the Neo-Sumerian period inancient Mesopotamia region. The artwork was first discovered inTelloh, 1924 and is currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum ofArt in New York.

  1. Kobayashi, Toshiko. &quotThe Personal Deity of Gudea .&quot ORIENT (1995): 142-144.

Toshikodescribes the artwork as a symbol of power or leadership even in thetemples. It is classified as a stone sculpture with inscribedpatterns or formation that contribute to the general outline of thestatue/artwork. The head is donned with a crown. This was used toidentify the king and as a symbol of leadership to the people ofGudea at the time. The crown has several interrelated inscriptionsthat trace out a benign kingdom feature. The interrelatedinscriptions show the expanse and the power accorded to the leader ashe was seen as a symbol of unity to the various provinces in theempire his power held the kingdom together and was expected toremain so unless otherwise (a defeat in war or end of the earth andthe kingdom at large). Therefore, the author discerns the crown as anidentity feature of the sculpture and of the Akkadian empire. Thecrown patterns are refined and orderly in structure representing theexpected order and integration of the leader’s rule in the empire.

Thematerial used, diorite, is a hard rock material that required skilland strength to carve out desired finishes. The material was rare andhad high mechanical strength which depicts the importance andcharacteristics attached to Gudea, the leader. The statue has a cupin its hand and water flowing out. This may show the complementarycharacteristic of the leader the flowing water could depict theleader as a provider in all realms (socially and economically). Thehigh mechanical strength of the diorite material depict the leader asa tough one. One who was able and had the means to sustain thepeaceful environment in the Akkadian empire. The rarity of thediorite material depict the prestige accorded to the leader andrecognition of his leadership in the empire. The flowing water gushfrom the cup into the adjacent area of the statue. This depicts theout spills or outbursts of the positive influence of the leader tothe empire and the surrounding regions. The streaming waters from thecup are a captivator. The stream was just to introduce motion andinterest in the sculpture a key aspect in the art piece! UnlikeToshiko’s discernment that the streaming profile is curvy torepresent the type of leadership emanating from the king though hewas expected to be tough and a provider concurrently.

  1. Hitchcock, Louise A. Minoan Architecture: A Contextual Analysis. Jonsered: Åström, 2000

Theauthor discerns the votive style or position depicted in the artwork.The leader has his hands held together and a calm positionrepresented. The votive position befits the temple atmosphere/auraand could be seen as instilling the necessary peaceful mentality inthe kingdom a worthy description for the advancement of thespiritual and the kingdom’s wellbeing. The votive aura depicted inthe artwork can also be seen as a gift or worship item for the gods.Another perspective for the gushing water regarding the gift is thedepiction of the gifts from the gods flowing around and to the peopleof the Akkadian empire. The location of the votive of Gudea in thetemples also shows the intermediate position of the leader betweenthe gods and the human beings. The location of these statues placethe leader as the communicator of the god’s will to the people ofthe Akkadian empire. This is complemented by the outbursts ofresources symbolized by the outflow of streams to the surroundingareas of the statue.

Thesize of the statue depict the envisioned physical statement of theleader. The exaggerated shoulders and the large arms depict thesuperiority possessed by the king. The intertwined arms depict theaura of confidence Gudea had, or was expected to at least depict.Also, the statue had inscriptions that depicted an element ofsuperiority enjoyed by Gudea. The inscriptions read as:

Gudea,the man who built the temple may his life be long(Evans,55).

Theleader, Gudea, is wished a longer life to continue to guide theAkkadian empire and reach for more gifts to the empire emanating fromthe Akkadian gods. The essence of the leader and his tenure isdepicted clearly by the Sumerian inscriptions on the art work.

Texturaldifferences emanate from the surface carvings and the robes and watercomponents. The scarfs are finer in texture comparable to the othergarments portrayed. The rough profile or texture is complemented bythe Sumerian inscriptions that contribute to the roughness of thegarments’ profile. Variational characteristics in the face, likethe rough patches on the face (the chin and the lips) portray clearlyGudea’s facial features. This help in examining the emotionaldepiction and facial expressions portrayed in the sculpture. Thewater stream present a clear smooth outflow that contrasts well withthe surrounding profile or texture of the sculpture. This depicts aclear surface disparities considered by the artist in creating such awonder piece of Gudea. The physicality of the sculpture show up keyconcepts/themes expressed by the artist. The non-proportional sizesof the shoulders comparable to the rest of the body represent thepower or muscle of the leader. The arms are large and the comparativestrength with which the object in the hands are held depict theimportance attached to the object in focus/throne and the defensiveor determination of the leader to uphold the empire’s wellbeing andthe wishes of the gods.

  1. Evans, Jean M. The Lives of Sumerian Sculpture: An Archaeology of the Early Dynastic Temple. 2012

Evansconsiders the body expressions and the status/position of thesculpture that depict the leader as a composed one and is decisive.The eyes look determined and there are no frowns depicted in thesculpture. The focused eyes and the absence of frowns or any othernegative emotions solidify the relaxed mode of the Gudea. Normally,leaders are expected to be relaxed and in a frame of mind as to makeconcise wise decisions. The relaxed decisive look/feel in thesculpture complement the societal and leadership status of Gudea. Thehead seems round-shaped and the protruding unblinking eyes is awashwith confidence, but also relaxed as a leader. This upholds theconfidence by the people and the gods in Gudea. The body stature ispoised and on-point. The forward facing head or eyes remove the needto circulate the sculpture to gain a clear picture or view of theintended theme/message by the artist. The sculpture is mostly solidwith little in between the arms and the legs. This complement theone-point view no need to circulate the sculpture to gain cleartheme of the artist. The inclusion of the streaming water augmentmotion element to the general stature. The streaming water add ontothe textual differences or profile of the votive of Gudea.

Thelighting conditions complement the descriptive characteristics of thesculpture. The material used enhances the lighting spectra and thesynchronized differences in the sculpture. The dark color absorbslight but contrasts well with the shadow effect. The feet emergedifferentiated from other parts due to the lighting conditions. Thiswill be realized once the hands and the streaming water have beenearlier identified. The different profiles and texture arecomplemented by the lighting effect as the patterns and wrinkles onthe garments will have shadow effect. Evans considers the lightingeffect and conditions as a principle element in the description ofthe artist’s theme. The lighting conditions is relative to thelocation of the sculpture and does not have much effect on theoverall description or theme. Though, the crown is not easilydistinguished from the sculpture body, it has the same color as therest of the body with little or no shadow effect resulting from thevarying lighting conditions. When placed in illuminative area, thecrown can be easily distinguished considering its size and patterns.The robes also face the same instance as they have a smooth profilewhich leaves no room for the utilization of the shadow effect toemanate realism in the sculpture. The detailed front section of thesculpture negates the need to circumvent the art piece to discern theartist’s theme or intention. The texture, form and culture of theAkkadian empire are flawlessly integrated into the sculpture.


Thesculpture is attractive and the diorite material used make itlong-lasting to preserve the vintage artwork for the nextgenerations. The sculpture has integrated major themes likesuperiority, confidence and providence for the leader of Akkadianempire. It has complemented the leader well and outlining the majorfunctions expected of the leader. The contextual scrutiny byHitchcock shows clearly the themes and the minutiae of the art piece.The providence factor and the sculpture location in the varioustemples ignite the significant role of Gudea as a link between thepeople and the gods in the Akkadian empire. The physical symmetry andsize of the sculpture ignite the resilient confident yet pacificleader. Generally, the votive of Gudea has portrayed the kind ofleaders the Akkadian empire had or expected to have. The votive ofGudea is a signature of these leadership kinds and the culture of theAkkadian folks with regards to their reverence of their leaders andthose in command.


Evans,Jean M. TheLives of Sumerian Sculpture: An Archaeology of the Early DynasticTemple.2012. Print.

Hitchcock,Louise A. MinoanArchitecture: A Contextual Analysis.Jonsered: Åström, 2000. Print.

Kobayashi,Toshiko. &quotThe Personal Deity of Gudea .&quot ORIENT(1995): 142-144. Print.