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Work Monzón lion

Department of Islamic Art: Political Recomposition and Birth of the Sultanates (1000–1250)

Lion de Monzón

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Hughes Dubois

Islamic Art
Political Recomposition and Birth of the Sultanates (1000–1250)

This lion, which served as a fountain spout, was found at Monzón de Campos (Palencia, Spain). Epigraphic analysis has dated it to the 12th–13th century. It is one of the few metal artifacts of the Islamic west to have survived from this period.

This cast bronze lion served as a fountain spout. A large hole in its underbelly was connected to a pipe that carried water through its body to its wide-open mouth. Although the articulated tail could be raised or lowered, this system did not activate a mechanism that could block or open the passage of water.

According to a study published by P. de Gayangos in 1865, the lion was found at Monzón de Campos in the Spanish province of Palencia. It then entered the Islamic art collection of the famous painter Mariano Fortuny y Marsal.

The origin of most of the bronze animals in Islamic art museums is unknown, so the Monzón lion is an exception in this respect.

A circular metal mortar with twelve angled sides, found at the same time as this lion, is now in the Balaguer Museum in Vilanova i la Geltrú (Spain); both pieces are adorned with a similar epigraphic decoration consisting of good wishes and blessings addressed to their owners.

Inscription
The lion is inscribed with a series of good wishes: Baraka kamila/Na’ima shamila (perfect blessing, absolute happiness).

Various suggestions have been made regarding its date and place of manufacture, but epigraphic analysis suggests that it dates from the 12th–13th century: the swan’s neck shape of some of the letters, for example, is characteristic of scripts of this period in al-Andalus.

Bibliography

- Déléry C., “Lion de Monzón,” in Makariou S. (ed.), Les Arts de l’Islam au musée du Louvre, Paris, 2012.
- Migeon, G., Manuel d’art musulman. Paris: A. Picard, 1907, p. 226–227.
- Davillier, J.-C., Fortuny, sa vie, son œuvre, sa correspondance. Paris: A. Aubry, 1875, p. 84.
- Gayangos (de), P., “Almirez árabe hallado en Monzón.” El arte en España, Vol. III, 1865, p. 101.

Technical description

  • Monzón lion

    12th–13th century

    Spain

  • Cast bronze, engraved decoration

    H. 31. 5 cm; W. 54.5 cm

  • Mme Stern bequest , 1926

    OA 7883

  • Islamic Art

    Denon wing

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