Social History of Art

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16th Italy

Giambologna, Lion Attacking a Horse, Walters Art Gallery

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Giambologna, Lion Attacking a Horse, Walters Art Gallery
Derived from ancient Roman sculpture where it was commonly used as ornament on sarcophagi, the Lion Attacking a Horse returned in Italian Renaissance court art as a variation on the courtly theme of hunting. The power of the lion to destroy other beasts also worked well to allegorize the lion-like power of Renaissance princes. Late eighteenth-century artists reinterpreted this theme replacing the courtly politics implied in earlier representations with a new proto-Romantic expression of the sublime. No longer the king of beasts safely integrated into an aristocratic "scale of nature," the violent lion now expressed a savage, fearful, pitiless nature. For more on the sublime lion, see my essay posted on this site under ESSAYS BY PERIOD / 18th CENTURY.
Posted by Robert Baldwin on September 26, 2010 Full Size| Slideshow