Ancient Rome, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. An action-packed marble stela featuring a fierce hunter, perhaps Alexander the Great, wearing a lion's skin, just as Heracles did, in order to signify his Dorian descent, riding a powerful steed, his sword raised to slay the lion below. The image is beautifully carved in relief; the sculptor displaying great artistry and skill. A special example, with iconography similar to imagery on the Alexander Sarcophagus and the Pella mosaic. Size: 8.625" W x 8.75" H (21.9 cm x 22.2 cm); 10.5" H (26.7 cm) on stand
The renowned lion hunt mosaic from Pella, shows Alexander the Great donning a lion skin, about to slay a lion. The hunt scene on the Alexander sarcophagus shows similar imagery. Scholars have argued that the lion depicted in Alexander scenes like that on the Alexander Sarcophagus (late 4th century BCE) and the Pella mosaic (also 4th century BCE) may have been meant to represent the Persian empire, feistily attacking but doomed to defeat.
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 Heracles slaying the Nemean lion for his first labor. The lions 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, Heracles defeated the lion by strangling it and wore its skin.
Lions were also favorite iconography for buildings, coins, and statues. Examples include the Lions 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. Today one would never imagine lions in ancient Greece; however, they did live there. Unfortunately, this animal became extinct partially due to human intervention.
Condition: Remarkably well-preserved with some expected surface wear and encrustation, but the imagery is quite vivid.
Provenance: Ex-private Mazard Family Collection, NYC acquired in the 1980s
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