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Work The winged lion

Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

The winged lion

© 1997 RMN / Hervé Lewandowski

Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Etruscan Art (9th-1st centuries BC)

Author(s):
Rives Todd

This winged lion documents the art of large stone sculpture of the Archaic Period in the city of Vulci, southern Etruria. The treatment is more graphic than plastic; excavations of the necropolis uncovered many works with similar characteristics. Monsters and fantastical animals such as this one were placed at the entrance of tombs or funerary chambers, marking the passage between the world of the living and that of the dead.

Guardians of the tombs

This winged lion belongs to the ensemble of funerary monuments – lions, mythological beings, animals both real and fanstastical – found in the Vulci area, not far from Tarquinia in southern Etruria. These sculptures decorated the entrances of tombs or funerary chambers. Possibly invested with an apotropaic function, they are above all liminal animals whose presence marks the passage between the world of the living and that of the dead.

A winged lion

Roaring with its head raised, the animal rests solidly on its legs, the hindquarters assuming a strange position half-way between sitting and standing.

Inspired from Greek and eastern models

Carved in nenfro, a volcanic rock found in southern Etruria, this lion belongs to a type of funerary sculpture with animal subjects: lions, winged lions, but also sphinxes, panthers, centaurs, sea monsters, and other creatures inherited from the bestiary of the East. This type of sculpture developed primarily in Vulci and the surrounding region between 600 and 530 BC.

Bibliography

A. Hus, « La statuaire en pierre archaïque de Vulci », La Civiltà arcaica di Vulci e la sua espansione, Florence, 1977, p. 32-33.

A. Hus, Recherches sur la statuaire en pierre étrusque archaïque, Paris, 1961, p. 50-51, p. 54, p. 222-229, pl. 26, n° 31-34.

Technical description

  • The winged lion

    c. 550-540 BC

    Vulci, west-central Italy

    Vulci, southern Etruria

  • Nenfro, a volcanic stone; carved in the round

    H. 106 cm; L. 74 cm

  • Purchased 1975

    Ma 3667

  • Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities

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