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Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 14:12 GMT
Ancient Iraqi relief goes on tour
Queen of the Night
The Queen of the Night has never been seen in Iraq
A 4,000-year-old Iraqi relief of a Babylonian goddess acquired by the British Museum is to go on loan at weekends to museums across the UK.

The short-loan tour of cities including Glasgow, Sunderland and Leicester is the first of its kind by the museum.

The relief of a naked woman was bought for 1.5m from a private collector and dates between 1800 and 1750 BC.

A spokeswoman said the museum also hoped to loan the work to Iraq but much depended on the security situation.

"The Queen of the Night is a timely reminder that what is now Iraq was once the cradle of civilisation," said British Museum director Neil MacGregor.

The museum's assistant keeper Dominique Collon said: "She's very much a goddess of the night. She is alluring and curvaceous and would have been painted dark red against a black background."

The Queen of the Night is one of only two major works of art from the reign of the Old Babylonian King Hammurabi, one of the most famous rulers from the Ancient Near East - the other is the Code of Hammurabi which is housed in Paris's Louvre.

On the road

The work will be accompanied on tour by workshops and talks by experts on Mesopotamian storytelling.

Other works recently bought by the museum will also go on a similar short tour of the UK but details of the works involved will not be announced until later this year.

The Queen of the Night will visit Glasgow's Burrell Collection and the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens from later this month before travelling to the Horniman Museum in south London in April and Leicester's New Walk Museum in May.

She will then be on loan for longer periods at the National Museum and Gallery of Wales in Cardiff and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

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