10 December 2011

The Stone Menagerie no 2

Two of my favourite creatures in all the vast collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum are these medieval lions, from Southern Italy (their museum numbers are 324-1889 and 324A-1889).

The lions currently reside in the recentishly opened Medieval and Renaissance Galleries (which being a V&A person, I still think of by the working title of Med and Ren), but when I started work they were in the sculpture galleries, and I walked past them most nights on my way out of the building. As the label comments, they are column bearing and likely to have been for an external window or door. While, yes, this no doubt accounts for some of the worn appearance, the fact that most of it is around their heads suggests to me that I am not the first person, nor the last, in the 900 years of their existence who has found them very tactile and wished to run a hand over the luxuriantly carved manes. And as with the dog in Chipping Norton church, ribs and claws are still visible, though in this instance unlikely to have been based on real life - these are more your heraldic or at least symbolic lions, with tails as long as their bodies.

No comments: