26th Dynasty Faience Sculpture of a Recumbent Lion

SKU X.0689
Circa

664 BC to 525 BC

Dimensions

1″ (2.5cm) high x .75″ (1.9cm) wide x 2″ (5.1cm) depth

Medium

Faience

Origin

Egypt

Gallery Location

UK


 

Figures of animals used for magical protection are often termed amulets of assimilation and can be assigned to what Sir Flinders Petrie the father of Egyptology designated as the homopoeic category. The idea of wearing zoomorphic amulets was based upon the belief that one or more perceived characteristics of an animal would pass to the human being wearing it. This varied according to the animal owls are said to be good luck in some parts of the world even today and some animal parts were believed to endow the wearer with good fortune. An enduring modern parallel for this ancient practice is the rabbits foot. This apple-green faience amulet depicts a recumbent maned (i.e. male) lion at rest upon an integral rectangular base. The head is held majestically erect, the forelegs extended, the rear legs retracted and the tail curled around his right haunch. The modelling of the amulet is highly accomplished, the main body being smoothly finished, and with details in relief and highlighted with incisions. The suspension loop formed from an eminence in the middle of the lions back is pierced at a right angle to the bodys long axis. In ancient Egypt, the lion has always been associated with a series of regal characteristics power, serenity, stealth and cunning with which people were eager to be associated. The long identification of pharaonic leaders with lions is evidenced by their sculptural hybridisation the famous sphinx figures. Our example is representative of a type traditionally cast in faience, and invariably shown in this pose with a suspension loop and integral base. Most examples are believed to date from Dynasty XXVI (654 625 BC), although some may be later. There is evidence to suggest that they may have played a more active role than a good luck charm. One magic spell preserved on a papyrus requires an individual to recite a spell over a lion of glazed composition threaded to red linen, so as to protect against snakebite, although it is possible that snakebite may metaphorically represent any type of accidental misfortune. – (X.0689)

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