Half of a Lion with Foliage
7.75 x 9.75 x 3 inches
Probably from Egypt 200-500 CE
Picker Art Gallery
Colgate University, Hamilton, NY

This vertically oriented relief depicts the front half of a lion’s body surrounded by foliage. The lion is shown in profile with careful, detailed depiction of the man, deep set eye and brow, a short muzzle and ears, and extended front legs. The motif of an animal in profile among foliage appears frequently in the Mayer reliefs. Unique to this example is the way in which the vine scroll perfectly encircles the lion. It faces the right with its front legs out as if jumping into the surrounding foliage. The foliage, a single leafy vine of acanthus leaves, perfectly encircles the lion. A second form around the vine, most likely a papyrus stem, creates a second encircling layer around the lion. The halo of leaves frames its body, isolating the lion from any other forms that may have originally been depicted to the left of this block. The circling acanthus vine surrounded by papyrus was a characteristic of motifs found at Oxyrhynchus. The motif of combined acanthus and papyrus stalks circling around animals is one encountered on similar late antique reliefs excavated at the Egyptian site of Oxyrhynchus. The depiction of only the front half of an animal’s body is a convention also found on works from that site.

Sana Neumann '13 is an Art History major and Religion minor at Colgate University.