Art textbooks are expensive. Fortunately, museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Getty Museum have started to make their publications freely available for download. Occasionally other open access books pop up too. Here are 6 books that are great for beginners and have excellent illustrations.
Art of the Ancient Near East: A Resource for Educators
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2010
Provides a useful general overview of important themes in Ancient Near Eastern art illustrated by objects from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s collections.
Art of the First Cities: the Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus
Joan Aruz and Ronald Wallenfels (eds.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2003
Art and artefacts related to the emergence of cities, from the early cities of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Aegean, western Anatolia, North Caucasus, the Gulf region, Iran, and the Indus area.
Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C.
Joan Aruz, Kim Benzel, and Jean Evans (eds.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008
Art and artefacts reflecting elite trade amongst the major kingdoms of western Asia, Egypt, and the Aegean during the Middle and Late Bronze Ages (2nd millennium BCE).
Royal Cities of Susa: Ancient Near Eastern Treasures in the Louvre
Prudence O. Harper, Prudence O., Joan Aruz, and Françoise Tallon (eds.)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1992
Essays on the history and art of ancient (Susa) in Iran, during the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE.
Metalwork from the Hellenized East: Catalogue of the Collections
J. Paul Getty Museum, 1993
Silver and gold objects, including drinking horns, bowls, cups, jewelry and other decorative items, from ancient Western and Central Asia.
Guide to Ancient Near Eastern Art
Ruth Ezra, Beth Harris, and Steven Zucker (eds.).
Collection of all articles on the Smarthistory website relating to ancient Mesopotamia and Iran (up to ~330 BCE). Aimed at readers new to the subject.