Roman, Imperial period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A massive carved stone spout from a fountain in the form of a lion's head. The thick lips part to reveal an opening for water to flow through. The face features wide-set eyes, a thin snout with flaring nostrils, and voluminous carved fur and mane around the face and mouth. Rome was famous for its fountains, the end point of a massive aqueduct system that carried water into the city from clean sources several miles distant. Size: 8.7" L x 14.2" W x 9.5" H (22.1 cm x 36.1 cm x 24.1 cm); 15.5" H (39.4 cm) on included custom stand.
In the classical world, lions symbolized power, wealth, and might. They were famously featured in many ancient myths, perhaps the most famous being that of Hercules (Herakles) slaying the Nemean lion for his first labor. That lion's fur was believed to be impenetrable to attacks since according to legend it was made of gold and its claws were far sharper than swords with the power to slice through armor. In the end, Hercules defeated the lion by strangling it and wore its skin.
Lions were also favorite iconography for buildings, coins, and statues in the ancient world. Examples include the Lion Gate to the Citadel of Mycenae, the Terrace of the Lions on the island of Delos, and the lion hunt mosaic from Pella featuring Alexander engaged in a lion hunt. Of course lions were also used in the Roman arenas where they would fight other animals, such as tigers and bears.
Provenance: private East Coast, USA collection
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