The earliest and most common form of painting in Mesopotamia is found on pottery. The bold and fluid lines of the Halaf ware from the Neolithic period and the multicolored, intricate patterns of much of the Hassuna pottery show great mastery in freehand design. Pottery of the later historical periods was often massproduced and unpainted. Evidence for wall painting in the form of murals is rare since pigments deteriorate and earlier techniques of excavation might have missed the remaining tiny fragments. Earliest examples date from the fourth millennium, from houses in Uruk, Eridu, and Tepe Gawra. The color triad was white, red, and black, a combination also used in the clay-cone mosaics that may have been more durable versions of painted decorative schemes. Apart from geometric designs, figurative scenes of animals were found at Tell Uqair, where the podium and the walls of the temple had been whitewashed before being painted; a spotted feline is well preserved.
   The murals in the palace of Mari, dating from the 18th century B.C., show that painting, along with sculpture and the art of seal cutting (see CYLINDER SEALS), was highly developed. The conflagration that destroyed the palace left the walls standing to a height of several meters, and some paintings survived, buried in the rubble. Some of the walls were ornamented with decorative friezes of bands in black, ochre, blue, and white, which were applied directly onto the plaster covering the mudbrick walls. Elsewhere a thick coat of white gypsum provided the surface for a badly preserved scene of offerings, composed of animal and human figures. The biggest mural (1.75 x 2.50 meters), dubbed by the excavator Andre Parrot as “Investiture,” was applied onto a thin mud wash. It is a large-scale composition with a central scene of several frames. The central panel is composed of two rows; above is a goddess standing on a lion presenting the rod and staff as symbols of kingship to the ruler standing before her. These central figures are flanked by female deities, wearing checkered dresses, and a kilted male god. Below this scene are two goddesses in striped garments holding up water-spouting vessels. Palm trees and mythical beasts border the central panel on either side, on a pale-blue background depicting a sky full of fluttering birds. The figures of deities and humans were first outlined in black and then painted in a rich palette of colors: red and orange ochre, white, red, yellow, blue, and green, at places not with a brush but thickly applied with a small trowel. In its original state this painting must have presented a vivid impression. As it can be seen now, at the Louvre, it has considerably darkened, not least by the fire that destroyed the palace. The Kassite palace at Dur-Kurigalzu from the 14th century was decorated with a painted procession of male officials. Here the outline is rather heavily drawn in black and there is less detail in the rendering of the garments, though the contrast between the white fabric and the dark beards and hair is effective.
   Some reliefs of the Assyrian palace from the first millennium show traces of paint and may have been intended to present a much more colorful impression originally. In the provincial palace of Til Barsip, where the stone orthostats may have been too expensive, geometric designs with rosettes and mythical beasts, as well as the usual hunting and fighting scenes, were painted in lime and watercolors, in black, red, and a bright blue, possibly using lapis lazuli.

Historical Dictionary of Mesopotamia. . 2012.

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