Ancient Roman Bronze crouching lion, Late Roman Period, 300-500 AD
The lion is crouched with the hind legs bent under the body and the front legs stretched forward. The head is raised and the tail is twisted under the body and raised around the right hind hip. The lion’s head has large eyes and open jaws, exposing the opening of a tube in the mouth, indicating that it possibly belonged to some kind of fountain. The mane covers the front of the elongated body. The features of the head and mane are incised. This large bronze lion is modelled in a majestic pose, with a strong facial expression. It is modelled in the late Roman style, with large eyes and schematic detailing of the mane and paws.
The representation of the lion appears in all cultures, from Egyptian furniture to the gates of Ishtar. This elegant and strong animal is associated with power and ostentation. The lion’s paws can be seen in all types of furniture or the representation of complete lions are very common in empires such as the Syrian or Babylonian. Also related to the Middle East is the use of lions in fountains and the importance of water in architecture. As mentioned above, as it has a tube in its jaws, it is likely that this sculpture belonged to a fortress or was related to water, which would come out of its mouth.
From the workmanship of the piece, it can be dated to the period between the 3rd and 5th centuries, known as the end of Lower Imperial Rome, which corresponds to the reign of Diocletian and the beginning of the decline of the Empire. When Rome seemed to have reached its apogee, the Hellenistic tradition began to decline. There was a deterioration of institutions, a decline in the economy and constant attacks by barbarian peoples, which was reflected in the artistic landscape. The great pressure that the peoples of central and northern Europe came under from the Barbarians brought them ever closer to the Roman frontiers and kept the empire in a constant struggle on the frontiers, and the drastic religious change also influenced the way figures were depicted. The Hellenistic and realistic style is no longer the model to follow and the inspiration in the lions of the Middle East and therefore in the figuration when representing figures can be seen in this item.