271 BABYLONIA- ARTS AND SCIENCES.
Ionian art has perished. This was pictorial enameling. It was practiced on the surface of
glazed bricks. The almost universal decay of the great walls and bastions and buttresses
of the palaces and temples has carried down to' dust the artistic designs with which they
were embellished. The ancient historians bear record to the striking and beautiful effects
which were achieved in the surface decorations of the public and private buildings of
Babylon, but the actual evidence has crumbled away and the antiquary is put at fault. What
is known with respect to these remarkable pictorial representations is that their subjects
were selected chiefly from battle and the chase, and that nearly all conspicuous buildings
were distinguished by their presence. Just as the artistic sense of the Assyrians found
expression in the abundant sculptures of Nineveh and Calah, so the taste of the
Babylonians sought and found gratification in the colored designs of enameled walls. The
prophet Ezekiel speaks only common fame when he refers to the image of the Chaldaeans,
portrayed upon the walls with vermilion." He also describes the pictures thereon as being
"girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads, all of
them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldaea, the land of
their nativity." He further says that as soon as Aholibah saw these images she doted upon
them, and sent messengers into Chaldaea. Such was the influence of these striking pictures
upon those who visited the great city. All the facts in the case go to show that according
to the then standards of art criticism the enameled pictures on the walls of Babylonian
buildings were of a high degree of excellence. The known skill of the Assyrians in
sculpture at a much earlier date, as well as the kinship and similar tastes and activities
of the two peoples, render it inherently probable that the Babylonian artists achieved
with the brush something of the same distinction attained by their northern rivals with
In the application of color the Babylonians seem to have followed nature. The
tints most employed were white, blue, yellow, brown, and black. Red was not much used.
These colors were distributed to different objects according to the fitness of things.
Water was represented with pale blue, and the earth with a shade of yellow. Lions were
painted a tawny hue, and spear-heads black.
Chemical analysis shows that the pigments employed on the decorated walls were essentially
the same as those used by modern artists. The yellow was principally an oxide of iron; the
blue was produced by the oxidation of cobalt or copper. The red was a sub-oxide of the
last-named metal. The yellow was sometimes the antimoniate of lead.
The designs were painted on the surface of brick walls before the glazing was applied. Or,
if the bricks were glazed before they were laid, then the design was laid on with
reference to the position which the bricks should occupy in the structure. The latter
supposition is borne out by the fact that the bricks were so laid, and indeed so made, as
to give the figure represented on the surface a raised character, like that attained in
bag-relief. This indicates no little skill in both the artist and the artisan. The effect
could only have been reached by modeling a large mass of clay with the desired figure in
the surface, and then cutting the same into bricks to be afterwards set in the same
relative position in the wall.
In the matter of metallurgy the Babylonians had considerable attainments. Of the precious
metals, gold and silver were abundantly employed. Of these were made the vessels and
utensils of the palace and the temple. The chief of the baser metals were iron and lead.
The alloy, known as bronze, was more important than either. Of this were made the
magnificent gates and doors for which the great buildings of Babylon were famous. The art
of casting metals was well known. The golden images found about the temple altars and
shrines were generally cast in a mould. Sometimes, however, the idol was of baser stuff,
plated with the precious metal. The silver statuettes were in like