Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Recumbent Lion
Work Type
statuette, sculpture
mid 6th-5th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Etruria
Archaic period to Classical
Persistent Link
Physical Descriptions
Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
1.3 x 6.7 cm (1/2 x 2 5/8 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Leaded Bronze
Cu, 82.66; Sn, 9.57; Pb, 7.12; Zn, 0.012; Fe, 0.11; Ni, 0.02; Ag, 0.03; Sb, 0.08; As, 0.33; Bi, less than 0.025; Co, 0.076; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001
J. Riederer

Technical Observations: Both feline bronzes (1955.120 and 1952.18) are solid cast, but each has a deep depression at the bottom. The wax models used to make them appear to have been poured into molds that were largely open at the bottom. Some excess wax was poured out, leading to the deep depressions but not a fully hollow cast. Although most of the tail of 1952.18 is lost, the tip is preserved under the back legs in an area that would never have been seen. It could not have been cast in this position in the wax model and was probably shaped separately and attached to the wax cast.

The bottom of 1952.18 was cast to fit neatly over a long, straight cylindrical shape, whereas 1955.120 is curved in its long direction, and it appears the wax was trimmed so it would sit better on a flat surface. 1955.120 also has iron corrosion products on the lower surfaces that may relate to an iron attachment pin, which is partially intact on the loop in the tail. Another pin may lie between the front feet.

Although the surface detail is partially obscured, most of the finer surface relief appears to have been modeled directly in the wax. Details in the hair of 1955.120 are finer and less fluid and may have been cold worked in the bronze cast.

Deep mineralization on 1952.18 has led to chip losses at the feet and the loss of the tail. 1955.120 is less mineralized, but corrosion products obscure some surface details. The patina on each is green with spots of red. 1955.120 has rust stains in some areas.

Henry Lie (submitted 2002)

Aimée and Rosamond Lamb, Milton, MA (by 1955), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1955.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of the Misses Aimée and Rosamond Lamb
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
Reclining with its head on its paws, and its long tail curved with the tip resting on its back, this small solid-cast figure of a lion has appears to be watchful. Although surface corrosion has obscured some of the details of the muzzle and eyes, the piece’s hood-like mane and ruff retain a faint quasi-geometrical pattern meant to indicate fur. Three raised slashes on the body denote the ribcage. This piece does not resemble the more familiar type of Etruscan lion, which is depicted with a highly articulated mane (with the fur picked out in a tongue or geometrical pattern) and its head raised in an active or rampant stance (1). The figure is flattened on the bottom, most likely to allow it to decorate a flat surface, such as the rim of a large vase. Between the front paws and in the loop of the tail there appears to be the remains of iron pins, which would have been used to secure the piece to a vessel. An Archaic Greek reclining lion, formerly in the Mildenberg collection and dated c. 550 BCE, has a similar placement of rivet holes along with the remains of ancient rivets; it is also thought to have had a similar purpose to Harvard’s piece (2). As A. Kozloff notes, “Reclining lions such as this, sold cast with a flat bottom and heads turned to one side, regularly stood guard over the rims of vessels or along the edges of pieces of furniture in Archaic Greece” (3).

Exact parallels for 1955.120 and 1952.18 have been difficult to find, making it challenging place the pieces chronologically.


1. See A. Kozloff, ed., Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection (Bloomington, 1981) no. 86.

2. Ibid., no. 90. Compare the reclining lion from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, inv. no. 67.1035, dated to the fourth century BCE or later, with holes drilled into its paws, and a horizontal one drilled through its tail to attach to top of vessel; see M. Comstock and C. C. Vermeule, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Greenwich, CT, 1971) no. 433.

3. Kozloff 1981 (supra 1) no. 90.

Aimée F. Scorziello

Subjects and Contexts

Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

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