Statue of a Crouching Lion

Unknown, Greek, Attica, about 350 B.C., Marble

Unknown, Greek, Attica, about 350 B.C., Marble

This crouching lion with its head turned to the left originally afforded symbolic protection to a grave in Athens or its territory. The lion’s face and mane are stylized, and its body is rather doglike. The small incisions all over the body indicate fur. This unrealistic rendering of lions is typical of Greek artists, who would never have seen a real lion and thus modeled their depictions on a combination of artistic tradition, large dogs, and house cats.

In antiquity, walled family burial plots lined the roads out of Athens. Sculpted lions such as this one, placed at the corners of the plot, were especially popular in the 300s B.C. Funerary sculptures had a dual purpose: they protected the tombs and served to display the wealth and prestige of the family. The ostentation of these displays led to an Athenian law of 317 B.C. that banned all but the simplest of grave markers.

Source : J. Paul Getty Museum

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