Head of a Lion
Inspired by their exotic notion of the East, Western Orientalist painters depicted subjects such as animals, harems and baths from Turkey, North Africa and the Middle-East. The use of vivid colour and luxurious detail lent these scenes an element of realism and intrigue. In this composition, the fur of the lion’s head is depicted in fine brushstrokes, differentiated from the lustre of the golden plate and the inlaid mother of pearl adorning the table.
As many of these European artists did not travel to the East, images and motifs came filtered through travelogues and literature, such as Description de l’Egypte (1809-29) which was published in France to catalogue ancient and modern life in Egypt during Napoleon’s expedition. Idealised and stereotyped, these visions of the ‘Orient’ became popularised in Europe. The lion’s head and the ornate platter perhaps allude to a rite or offering, imagined by Vauquelin.