Lion with Foliage
7 x 8 x 2.75 inches (17.8 x 20.3 x 7 cm)
Probably from Egypt 200-500 CE
Picker Art Gallery
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

This nearly-square relief depicts a large animal, which is most likely a lion. The lion’s head is disproportionately large and protrudes off the surface of the background behind it by an inch and a half. The beast’s thick neck is defined using carved lines to indicate a mane or perhaps rippling muscles. The cheeks bulge out, perhaps to indicate that the lion has a full mouth. The eye is a semi-circular protrusion into which the artist drilled a large hole to indicate the pupil. There is an unidentified object coming out from between the animal’s teeth, which is nearly the same width as the animal’s legs. This could be a large tongue, or perhaps the lion’s meal. The rest of the body is smaller and seems diminutive compared to the broad neck and large head.

The remains of black paint used to define the edges of the figure and the creases of the legs, vines and muscles are still visible. The body and foliage also appear to have been colored, although all that remains is an earthy tinge on the body and a grey pallor on the foliage.

The top half of the relief is carved more deeply than the bottom half. It is also more deeply carved than many of the other reliefs in this collection. This may suggest that it was situated higher up on a wall so deeper relief was needed to enhance visibility. This would also explain why the head and neck are larger, to compensate for the perspective.

This relief is one of three late antique Egyptian reliefs given to the Picker Art Gallery by Herbert Mayer ‘29 in 1966 (See Item 1966.1.883 and 1966.1.882); the rest of the collection was given 16 years later in 1982. It is also only one of two of the reliefs that were framed prior to being acquired by the Picker. The frame roughly follows the contours of the relief’s edge and is made with four slats of medium-brown wood and held together with glue. It is hard to know what the presence of the frame means; one possibility is that these two were perhaps displayed in Mayer’s gallery on some occasion before to he donated them to Colgate in 1966.

Morgan Roth '13 is an Art and Art History major at Colgate University.