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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Leonine Animal Plaque
Work Type
7th-3rd century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia
Iron Age
Central Asian
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Cast, lost-wax process
4.3 x 8 x 1.1 cm (1 11/16 x 3 1/8 x 7/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 88.23; Sn, 9.49; Pb, 1.74; Zn, 0.003; Fe, 0.01; Ni, 0.08; Ag, 0.14; Sb, 0.08; As, 0.19; Bi, 0.026; Co, 0.011; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: The patina is green with areas of underlying red. Raised corrosion products obscure the surface detail, but several areas are well preserved. Some areas appear to be completely mineralized and fragile.

The wax model appears to have been made from a sheet fashioned directly or pressed into a mold. The edges of the wax model were smoothed slightly, and the back also shows the softness of this medium. A thickened edge along the top of the reverse is also soft in appearance where preserved, as though a thin strip of wax may have been added there. The loop, now lost, on the back surface would have been added as a curved strip of wax. Incised lines on the back, head, tail and legs were probably enhanced by cold working.

Henry Lie (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
C. T. Loo, Paris (by 1933). Jonathan Kagan (by 1991), gift; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 1991.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Jonathan Kagan
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
This animal plaque, which represents a predator, perhaps a wolf or a lion, has an abstract style with a protruding conical shape on its shoulder (1). Cast indentations on the plaque indicate the animal’s mouth, with sharp interlocking teeth, and accentuate the hindquarters. The left eye is indicated by a raised almond-shaped bump; the ear by a raised elliptical line. There may be some indications of fur or a mane on the top of the head and neck. The back is straight and ends in a long tail, with spiral hair and a curled tip. The animal’s legs are folded under itself, toes curled down, and horizontal lines, curved at the end, are the only interior details of the feet. The animal’s torso is pierced with openwork shapes of a circle and two smaller triangles. There are two raised tangs on the animal’s rump on the reverse that possibly would have formed an attachment loop that is now broken. The reverse is otherwise flat and featureless.

The object would have functioned as a belt plaque (2). Plaques of this general form and motif were used over a wide territory and period of time.


1. Compare U. Jäger and S. Kansteiner, Ancient Metalwork from the Black Sea to China in the Borowski Collection (Ruhpolding, 2011) 62, no. 79, a wolf plaque from northwest China dated to the fifth to third centuries BCE and probably slightly earlier than the Harvard piece. See also Treasures of the Eurasian Steppes: Animal Art from 800 BC to 200 AD, Ariadne Galleries (New York, 1998) 55, no. 54 (a gold repoussé tiger from inner Mongolia, fourth-second centuries BCE); 110-11, nos. 114-15 (northwest China, southwest Mongolia, sixth-third centuries BCE)

2. Similar predator belt plates are published in E. S. Bogdanov, Obraz khishchnika v plasticheskom iskusstve kochevykh narodov Tsentral'noy Azii (skifo-sibirskaya khudozhestvennaya traditsiya) = The image of a predator in the plastic art of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia (Scythian-Siberian artistic tradition) (Novosibirsk, 2006) pls. 33.6, 36.1, and 36.3, as well as crouched predators of another variety (lions) on pl. 27 [in Russian].

Lisa M. Anderson

Publication History

  • Alfred Salmony, Sino-Siberian Art in the Collection of C.T. Loo, C. T. Loo (Paris, France, 1933), p. 71, pl. 39.1.
  • E. S. Bogdanov, Obraz khishchnika v plasticheskom iskusstve kochevykh narodov Tsentral'noy Azii (skifo-sibirskaya khudozhestvennaya traditsiya) [The predator image in the plastic art of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia (Scythian-Siberian artistic tradition)], In-t arkheologii i etnografii SO RAN (Novosibirsk, 2006), p. 150, pl. 35.1.

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Verification Level

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