Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago

One of the gems of the University of Chicago, The Oriental Institute (link) houses a museum, an auditorium, a beautiful library, classrooms, and scholars’ offices. The museum, open to the public, contains countless artifacts gathered during excavations in the Near East over many years by University faculty, students, and staff. Among the striking treasures displayed: an Assyrian Lamassu, or human-headed winged bull (link); a Striding Lion of Babylon (link); a statute of King Tutankhamun from Egypt; and a colossal Persian bull’s head from Persepolis.

The Institute's beautiful building was dedicated in 1931. From Jay Pridmore’s architectural guide to the University: “Designed by the same [architectural] studio [responsible for Rockefeller Chapel], the architects certainly intended for the Institute to harmonize with if not resemble [the nearby] modern Gothic chapel. But for reasons of fashion and a few characteristic design features, [the Institute] is commonly tagged ‘Art Deco.’ The building’s simplified Gothic exterior is indeed notable for planes and masses similar to those of Art Deco or Art Moderne commercial buildings of the period, such as Chicago’s Board of Trade [building]…. [Nevertheless,] despite its exotic and modern touches, the Oriental Institute remains an integrated part of the Gothic revival campus…. its gables and gray stone, as well as its bays and buttresses show that the Gothic revival was still regnant in the early 1930s.”

American Egyptologist – Breasted & The Oriental Institute
A "colossal" statute of Tutankhamun (c. 1334 B.C.), “one of the most famous pharaohs of ancient Egypt” says the note in the museum. Excavated in modern Luxor, it is one of a pair, the other of which stands in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Richard Balsamo

Related Previous Posts:
Ancient Assyria & the Transience of Economic Strength
The Oriental Institute's "Striding Lion" of Babylon
American Egyptologist – Breasted & The OrientalInstitute