Lion Running Through Vegetation
14.5 x 5.75 x 2.25 inches
Probably from Egypt 200-500 CE
Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

This relief is a fragment – possibly from a frieze – depicting what appears to be an adult male lion with carefully carved maine. The decorative floral motifs within a carved two-fold border is present on the top of the relief. Foliage surrounds what appears to be the lion passant, galloping with its right front paw raised. The leaves on either side of the lion frame him at the center of the rectangular limestone relief. Compared to other reliefs in the Mayer collection, the vegetation is less stylized. The leaf to the left of the lion appears to be a laurel, blown by the wind, and might help account for the perception of movement in the composition.

The deeply carved limestone relief illustrates a male lion running with his mouth wide open. The lion’s body is facing left while his head turns right, looking behind him as we have seen in many of the reliefs in the Mayer Collection. The lion’s jaw intersects with the trefoil of leaves, as the lion’s curling tail appears to morph with the foliage to his right – a common unifying motif in Late Egyptian Antique limestone reliefs. The meaning of the leaf in the lion’s jaw is unclear; the jaw is open as if the lion were growling, sticking out his tongue, or consuming the trefoil leaf that appears snug in his jaw.

The lower right-hand corner of the relief has suffered a major loss, exhibiting chipping, salting, and discoloration. This composition is most similar to the better-preserved relief 1982.57 in the Herbert Mayer Collection, in which two smaller animals (“possibly lions”) frolic among bountiful vegetation.

Brooke Weinstein, Class of 2012, majors in Art History and English.