Roman Silver Lion Head Appliqué


A detailed Roman silver appliqué of a lion mask. The lion has been depicted with great attention to detail in the form of a pronounced snout, slightly parted mouth and furrowed brows. His exquisite mane is rendered with curling tendrils to indicate the voluptuous fur. The reverse remains undecorated and hollowed out. The original mounting peg has been attached to a modern gold stand. An exceptional piece with beautiful detailing.

Date: Circa 1st - 4th century AD
Provenance: From the late Alison Barker collection, a retired London barrister; from her collection formed early 1960s-1990s.
Condition: Very fine condition. Excellent attention to detail.


SKU: AH-989 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 18.49 g
Dimensions W 2.5 x H 2.7 cm




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