Art History: From Nineveh to Hobart
“From Nineveh to Hobart”
The arrival of Old-World antiquities in Australia for the first time around the mid 19th century A.D. is a metaphor for the cultural dichotomy that still prevails in the country today. Brought in by educated Englishmen who were steeped in the Classics and world of the Bible, inspired by the Enlightenment and appointed to responsible positions in the Colonies, these ancient artefacts from Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome were intended to reinforce the Western orientation of the European settlers and educate the masses. Merrillees’ research centers on a singular piece of stone bas relief from the northern palace of the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal, who ruled from Nineveh in ancient Mespotamia, modern Iraq, between 668 B.C. and 627 B.C. This genuine fragment, unique in Australia was donated to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery in 1858 and lay undisturbed and unrecognised for over a 140 years. Who donated it and why?