Identification and Creation
Object Number
High Relief of a Lion
Work Type
1st century BCE-2nd century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Asia, South Arabia
Sabaean period
South Arabian
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
36.5 x 20.5 x 19.5 cm (14 3/8 x 8 1/16 x 7 11/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, nickel

Katherine Eremin January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is black with areas of red and green. Incomplete areas on the back edges are casting flaws rather than the result of damage. The base below the lion’s feet is heavily corroded and has large clumps of green malachite and burial accretions. The front of the lintel was carved flat through the malachite layers during an early restoration process. Damage on the proper right half of this lintel is backed at the interior with modern sheets of copper and filled with black and green resinous material. The dull black covering 80% of the surface appears to be modern copper sulfide corrosion products, probably from a sulfur-containing storage environment. It is likely that this material grew on top of a green malachite surface.

The object was made using a direct lost-wax process, which involved forming the wax model on a prepared core. Evidence for this is visible on the reverse, where the facial features, such as the eyes, nose, and mouth, are simplified in comparison with the modeling of the front. The transitions between the shapes on the back of the head are more angular than what would be expected if an indirect process had been used. Fine ridges at the highpoints on the reverse, which correspond to low points on the front such as the mouth and eye sockets, reflect the way the core was cut. This appearance contrasts with the more fluid, less geometric inner surface that results from melting or otherwise applying wax to a negative mold in the process of indirect lost-wax casting. The flat, raised strip (1.5 cm wide) bordering the large opening on the reverse was applied as wax sheet to create a more finished, uniform edge. Large casting flaws over half of the opening obliterated most of this strip. A large flaw at the top of the head was crudely repaired during manufacture by pouring molten bronze over the flaw on the reverse. The pour did not fully fill the flaw hole but instead dribbled in large droplets into the nose and eye areas. Another 1.5-cm flaw hole on the back of the upper right leg is not repaired. The two rectangular holes on the back of the base may have connected the core to the outer investment and may have served to stabilize the core. A flange (3 cm wide) projects 1.5 cm at the base between these two holes and is probably related to an original mounting scheme. On the front, the hair, incised lines, projecting teeth, and horn-like elements were added and formed directly in soft wax, giving these details a very irregular and fluid appearance.

Henry Lie (submitted 2011)

Joseph Brummer Gallery, New York, NY, (by 1935), sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York, NY, (1940), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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This thick-walled relief depicts a frontal lion standing on a base. The roaring lion has a roundish head, big, bulging eyes, and an open mouth with protruding tongue. Small horns emerge from his muzzle, forehead, brows, and legs. The mane is rendered in elongated tufts, while the fur on the chest is depicted in stylized S-curves. The paws are highly simplified in the form of four vertical ribs. It is unclear whether there once was an inscription on the base and some kind of ornament in the badly preserved area below it.

The back is open at the top but closed at the legs and base. There is a triangular hole in one of the legs, and two rectangular ones appear in the base. The underside of the base is uneven and seems to have had two rectangular holes, one of which is now broken. A tang projects from the back of the base. A patch or seam is visible in the casting on the inside of the head.
Publication History

Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), p. 256 (checklist).

Exhibition History

32Q: 3440 Near East, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 11/16/2016

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Ancient Bronzes

Collection Highlights

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at