South Arabia or the Near East, ca. 1st millennium BCE. A rare and stunning creamy white alabaster sculpture of a lion, shown in a crouched hunting stance, stalking towards its prey. The powerful legs and body are wonderfully depicted, with the long tail curled around the back of the legs. The head is broad, with deeply carved eyes that may once have had inlays, a short snout, delineated nostrils and whiskers, and low, curved ears. Deeply incised lines on the back of the neck create a mane. Size: 3.05" W x 0.95" H (7.7 cm x 2.4 cm)
In ancient times, lions lived in northern Africa and, until around the 20th century BCE, in the ancient Near East. Lions were a popular motif throughout this region; for example, lions flank the gates through which the dead passed at the tomb of King Abargi in Ur, and decorated the private apartments of the Assyrian ruler Ashurbanipal at Kahlu (now at the British Museum). Lions were hunted for sport by the wealthy in this society, and their presence in Arabian and Near Eastern iconography is meant to celebrate both man's prowess over nature and the fierce, threatening power of the wild. The intently hunting posture of this depiction suggests the latter.
Provenance: private New Jersey, USA collection, acquired between 2000 and 2005; ex-Arte Xibalba, Sarasota, Florida, USA
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The tail has been reattached in two places; otherwise intact. Slight smoothing to features from touch but form and most details are still in very nice condition. Rich deposits and patina.