Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cats in Art: Lion Statue in the Vatican (1 of 3)

From my continuing weekly Sunday series of cats in art. I'm using some ideas from the coffee table book, The Cat in Art, by Stefano Zuffi.  

The bride and I recently returned from a couple weeks in Europe, the trip of a lifetime.  We first took a Rhine River cruise downstream from Basel, Switzerland to Amsterdam, Netherlands.  Then we remained 3 more days each in Amsterdam and Rome.  While in Europe, my Cats in Art became a sort of quest for us and the others of our group, so the next few weeks here on Sundays will be focused on our kitty discoveries in the Old World.

Today's subject is the first of three lion sculptures from the Vatican.  One large room of one of their museums was filled with animal sculptures, among them this gem:

Image credit Gary, lion statue in the Vatican

This female lion has brought down a sheep, so I infer that the geographic locale depicted was the near East, perhaps today's Holy Land.  Lions used to roam there but sadly, no more.

This statue is near life sized, and the lion, well, just looks desperate.  She can now eat, but look at her facial expression, her gaunt ribs.  Life has not been kind to this kitty, and the artist was somehow able to magnificently convey that living-on-the-edge moment.  

To do that in stone is nothing short of remarkable.  Not to take anything away from painters, but if your subject kitty's bony ribs don't look right, you just let the paint dry and then paint over it.  Try that with your hammer and chisel.

In the sculpture above, simply note the number of pieces that are hanging free: the legs on each on the animals, the lion's jaw and ears.  Just think about how easily the sculptor could have tapped his chisel a tad too hard...and suddenly it's an "oh shit" moment.  Without the technology of epoxy or superglue, it was game over.

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