The "Near East" is a geographical designation that includes regions in Asia that are closer to Europe as opposed to lands such as China and Japan in the "Far East."

Many different ethnic groups flourished in this vast area—from the Lurs in Iran’s Zagros Mountains to the Hittites in ancient Anatolia (modern-day Turkey). Cultures in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) developed some of the world's oldest cities and earliest writing systems; they also promoted the development of artistic techniques and supported highly skilled artists. Near Eastern works as represented in the museum's collection reflect the individuality of distinct cultures but also a sharing of artistic ideas through trade.

In general, Near Eastern art strives for a stylized and idealized manner in which to structure naturalistic observations.