Lion Head Protome



    gift of: Professor Gary Hanson

    date: c. 9th-10th Century AD

    provenance: unknown

    description: The original function of this object is difficult to determine. This lion head is likely a protome from a large bronze bowl or ewer, or might instead be the head of a figurine or a zoomorphic (animal) shaped incense burner. It is made of cast bronze, like other figurines from this time period. Later bronze animal figurines were elaborately decorated, but ours is simple. Animals long played an important role in Islamic culture, both in literature and art. Lions might best a man or take down a deer in art. Islam forbade the representation of living creatures in the visual arts because the creation of beings was reserved for God alone. It is apparent, though, that people, animals and mythical creatures festooned or constituted many pieces of secular Islamic art. Therefore, as this lion head proves, there was a division between art and objects created for religious and secular use.