Press Releases

Queen of the Night

National Museum & Gallery, Cardiff
7th September – 28th November

A rare 4,000 year old terracotta relief of a Babylonian goddess, nick-named 'The Queen of the Night' and hailed as one of the most important art works from ancient Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq) will go on show at the National Museum & Gallery, Cardiff on 7th September.

Made of baked clay mixed with straw between 1800 and 1750 BC, the identity of the curvaceous female figure is unknown. Thought to represent a goddess of the underworld, she is an important link to the reign of the most famous Ancient Near East ruler, King Hammurabi (1792–1750BC). Only one other major art work has survived his reign, the Code Hammurabi, a stone inscribed with a law code now part of the collections of the Louvre, Paris.

The winged, naked figure, was originally painted red with multi-coloured wings against a black background and wears the horned headdress of Mesopotamian deities and holds symbols of divinity: the rod and ring of justice. Her feet are talons which rest on lions and two owls suggest that she is connected with the underworld. Some schools of thought believe that she could be the goddess Ishtar, the Mesopotamian goddess of sexual love and war, or Ishtar's sister and rival, the goddess Ereshkigal who ruled over the Underworld, or the demoness Lilitu, known as Lilith in the Bible.

The relief, now part of the British Museum