Roman Bronze Lioness Statuette


A fine Roman lioness statuette cast from bronze featuring the animal in a perched position with the hind legs bent and one forearm straight with the other raised. The lioness is also presented with its head raised high. The anatomical features are rendered naturalistically including the large nose, sharp teeth and rounded ears. Careful attention has been paid to carving tuffs of fur across the body, especially around the neck. The statuette has been mounted on a custom-made stand.

Date: Circa 1st-2nd century AD
Provenance: ‘The Ancient Menagerie Collection’ formerly the property of a Cambridgeshire lady, collected since the 1990s and acquired from auctions and dealers throughout Europe and the USA, now ex London collection.
Condition: Excellent condition. Some patination to the surface. Height of the statuette alone is 4.9cm.


SKU: LD-642 Category: Tags: ,

In the Roman world, lions maintained a strong association with Hercules, as he famously encountered the Nemean Lion as one of his Twelve Labours. The lion was far from a mythological beast, however, and would have been a familiar sight across the Roman Empire. The ‘venationes’ (“hunts”) and other ‘spectacula’ (“shows”) of ancient Rome saw exotic species (including panthers, elephants, and bears) procured from all corners of the Roman Empire – a conscious demonstration in itself of the nation’s extensive reach and authority – and placed in the amphitheatre for gory entertainment. Notoriously, lions were integral to the form of capital punishment known as ‘damnatio ad bestias’, whereby condemned criminals were pitted against the beasts. Lions were also sought out by Roman army units as a pastime when not at war – the process of capturing the beasts is recorded in several Roman mosaics, as is ‘damnatio ad bestias’, which became a motif of Christian martyrdom in later antiquity.

For more information about the meanings of animals in Roman art, see our relevant blog post: Animal Symbolism in Roman Art.

Weight 149.5 g
Dimensions W 5.5 x H 6.6 cm



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