Couchant Lion

CULTURE:
Etruscan
DATE:
late 6th–early 5th century BCE
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General Description

Lions were a favorite subject in Etruscan, Greek, and near Eastern art. The Etruscans often used bronze representations of the lion to decorate armor, furniture, and carriages, and especially as fittings on bronze vessels. These ornamental attachments generally appeared in groups, so this pair of lions probably decorated the same vessel or other object. They may have been positioned back to back or confronted in a heraldic arrangement, serving in a dual capacity as decorative and guardian entities. Their small scale and the fact that their forepaws were excluded from the form (they appear to be hidden beneath the creatures) indicate that their original setting was purely decorative and probably subsidiary.

In their crouching pose, the lions are depicted snarling with their ears pinned back. Their eyes are narrow ridges, their whiskers and ruffs are hatched, and their manes are rendered in a stylized triangle pattern. Their hind legs extend from the haunches in low relief along their bodies. The tails do not cling to the bodies except for the slight attachment for stability at the base of the small curve; this is typical of Etruscan lions and distinguishes them from Greek ones.

Excerpt from

Anne R. Bromberg, and Karl Kilinski II, Gods, Men, and Heroes: Ancient Art at the Dallas Museum of Art. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996), 86.