From Nineveh and Its Remains

“They have found Nimrod himself!” exclaimed one of Layard’s workmen after the excavation team uncovered the massive head of a sphinx. According to Layard’s account in Nineveh and Its Remains (1849), from which this drawing is taken, some of the local workers feared that the statue was alive. If the natives reacted with fear and excitement upon seeing ancient Assyrian sculpture, Europeans expressed mostly boredom. Assyrian art, it was felt, did not measure up to the high standard set by the Elgin Marbles, the fifth-century B.C. sculptures removed from the Parthenon and displayed in the British Museum. Although the Assyrian statues and reliefs may have been interesting bits of historical evidence, the Europeans did not think they were much to look at.