Sunday, July 18, 2010

Influential Lion

The colossal lion from Nimrud was discovered by archaeologist Austen Henry Layard in 1849 and put on display in the British Museum.

The snarling muzzle and penetrating eyes apparently made an impression on English painter John William Waterhouse (1849-1917).

His 1887 painting “Mariamne” features a lion sculpture that seems to be influenced by the Nimrud lion.

The same Assyrian lion (and Waterhouse’s painting itself) must have influenced Edward John Poynter (1836–1919), who used lions of similar design to flank the royal stairway in his painting “The Visit of the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon,' 1890.
I read about this in Elizabeth's Prettejohn's essay in "J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern PreRaphaelite"


Gordon Napier said...

It's an impressive artifact. I've drawn the actual thing from 'life' before now. I've also included a statue inspired by it amid ruins in the background of a recent illustration for Dragon Warriors.

Marco Bucci said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marco Bucci said...

Mr. Gurney - Just wanted to say that I used your 'Moleskine Loves Schmincke' setup in my recent trip to Europe, complete with film can for water. Worked amazingly well. THANKS!!!

Anonymous said...

Layard's "The Monuments of Nineveh from drawings made on the spot" is a fascinating book for anyone interested in art and antiquity. I bought the Gorgias Press reissue before the price skyrocketed.

New York Public Library has digital scans online:

Anonymous said...

Theres some great small scale replicas in the British Museum, along with a small etching of the original beast being carried into the museum on a scaffolding 1852 I think it was

Unknown said...

I just LOVE Waterhouse! I get the Waterhouse calendar every year and I've noticed lions appear in at least three paintings 1887-1891. I thought he might have a plaster in his studio for reference.



Circe Offering the Cup to Ulysses

I used my library's Inter Library Loan office to look through a wonderful book called J.W. Waterhouse: The Modern Pre-Raphaelite created for the exhibition his works recently had. It even has images from his sketchbooks! I highly recommend checking it out if you like Waterhouse, dear readers.

--Karen Bovenmyer

Unknown said...

I was fortunate enough to the see the statue in person during a two-week jaunt through London. I wish I would've thought to try and sketch the things I saw on that trip. I was (and still am, to be honest) very insecure about sketching in front of others. Afraid of inviting the criticism or having people look over my shoulder, I guess.

Unknown said...

i can't believe i can actually say that i have seen those two paintings now! They are currently at the gallery of NSW and they are AWESOME!:)

helz bellz said...

I am lucky enough to work at the British Museum, and we actually have quite a few bronze lion weights in the collection that are very similar to the lion in the Waterhouse painting. As with the lion sculpture, they all come from ancient Assyria:

James Gurney said...

PJ, cool, I didn't know both paintings were in the Australian show.

HJ: Thanks! You're so lucky to work among all those treasures.

helz bellz said...

your welcome :)

I've just noticed that my link didn't work, but if you go to the British Museum Collections Online and search for bronze lion weights some examples should come up :)

Michael Damboldt said...

I recently saw a work titled "Babylonion Slave Market" and it was astonishing! The same elements were used and it was awe-inspiring.

I would love to see the artifact up-close in the future!