Colossal marble lion from a tomb monument


British Museum

British Museum
London, United Kingdom

This colossal lion weighs some six tons. Made from one piece of marble, it was mounted on a base crowning a funerary monument. The monument itself was square with a circular interior chamber and a stepped-pyramid roof. It is a type of funerary monument inspired by the greater tomb of Maussollos, built about 350 BC at Halikarnassos, less than a day's sail from Knidos. The monument was set on a headland terminating in a sheer cliff that falls some 200 feet into the sea. The hollow eyes of the lion were probably originally inset with coloured glass, and the reflection of light may have been an aid to sailors navigating the notoriously difficult coast. Opinions vary as to when the sculpture was made. One suggestion is that the monument commemorated a naval battle off Knidos in 394 BC. Another dates the Doric architecture of the tomb to about 175 BC, and the lion with it. The lion was found in 1859 by the architect Richard Pullan, who was a member of Charles Newton's expedition to Asia Minor. Newton was responsible for acquiring this and many other pieces of Greek sculpture and architecture for the Museum.

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  • Title: Colossal marble lion from a tomb monument
  • Date Created: -199/-100
  • Physical Dimensions: Length: 2.89m; Height: 1.82m
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: carved; inlaid
  • Subject: mammal
  • Registration number: 1859,1226.24
  • Place: Excavated/Findspot Knidos
  • Period/culture: Hellenistic
  • Material: marble; glass
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Excavated by Newton, Charles Thomas