A winged bull at Persepolis


The propylaea, built by Xerxes I (518–465 BCE), was the monumental entrance to the palatial city of Persepolis. Its western entrance was flanked by two huge bulls, whereas the eastern side was protected by two lamassu, shown in this view looking northeast. These creatures, part-bull or lion, part-bird and part-human, are one of the most enduring symbols of the Assyrian Empire. For Porter they were ‘monstrous’ and unfamiliar; ‘but whatever be the real intention, in the bull-man, which is here planted in the ancient seat of the earliest monarchs of the East, in the gate of his palace, his attributes fully answer the general idea of an emblematic reference to a just sovereignty’ (Travels, p. 593).

Full title:
A winged bull at Persepolis
June 1818
Watercolour / View
Sir Robert Ker Porter
© British Library
Usage terms
Public Domain
Held by
British Library
Add. MS 14758, f.81

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Painting Persepolis

Article by:
Christopher Wright
Antiquarianism, Science and nature

Sir Robert Ker Porter's accounts of his travels in the Middle East gave a glimpse into a region that was largely unknown to most Europeans. His original watercolours provide a compelling visual source and are both descriptive of their settings and beautiful works of art in their own right. Christopher Wright recounts Porter's journey into an unfamiliar and enchanting landscape.

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