Thursday, February 10, 2011


door knocker Avignon

"Some 2500 years ago, a Greek artist conceived the strange idea of putting a movable ring into the mouth of a lion, or rather of combining two traditional elements, an artistic and a utilitarian one, by uniting a lion protome with a swinging handle.

image: ferlosio

 "The new art form, once created, lived on everywhere and became almost immortal. It would never have been so successful if its appeal had been so simple that it could be expressed in a short formula. As in every 'success story' there were many contributory factors and ambiguity played a considerable part. The figure of the lion was the traditional guardian of the dwelling and belongings of the living and the dead. Human pride could find immense satisfaction in imposing on the fiercest of beasts a most menial task. And in addition, a playful element slipped in. The homo ludens made the lion into a performing animal, frightened by it and at the same time showing superiority over it."

Lion Masks with Rings in the West and the East
Otto Kurz

carved lions in Paris
Our guardians, our protectors, our pets.
Inside and outside, we have tried to tame the beast. Even without a ring in his mouth, the idea is just
about the same.
image: touregypt
Egyptian chair with lion feet

image: Pierre Bergé et Associés

Ceramic stool formed from four sphinxes with their lion feet as its base, enamel seat decorated with military figures and a goose. Dating from 1900, it was inspired by an Egyptian or Greek antiquity.

Renaissance table Musée des beaux-arts de Tours

image: Pierre Bergé et Associés

Oak chair featuring back carved with a lion holding a shield. Seat and legs sculpted to imitate fur and with feet ending in lion paws. Provenance and date not stated.

curio: oak furiture remnant

oak floor lamp

Napoléon III oval rosewood dining table

Animal elements, especially relating to lions,  have been prominent throughout furniture history 
--but  seem to be accumulating only recently in my own home.

photo: Lion d'or of Rocamador
To look at the subject from another point of view, if you ever wondered why so many hotels were named
au lion d'or throughout France, it's simple:
au lit on dort.
This playful message signaled to the weary traveler where he could find sleep at last in a near-by inn.

photo: rita bucheit ltd
Empire bed of mahogany attributed to Jacob

In bed we sleep.


  1. Most interesting. I love the oak chair and the Empire bed but, alas, it's been sold! I pictured it in my little sitting-room.

    We see a lot of properties here with lions on pillars either side of the entry; the owners mainly of Italian descent.

    Lovely post.

  2. Lions are so regal. I have a double lion pin with a chain between the two lions. It would look perfect on a cape - or could also go across a collar on a wool coat. It's very nice - my mom gave it to me. Your post reminds me to wear it before I put my winter coats away!

  3. Have always loved the animal in furniture. You have offered up some wonderful things to sigh upon. I have a console in my dining room that are made of cast griffins. I have a little lion side table in my living room (when it first arrived our Schnauzer was afraid of it and always walked on the other side of living room with eyes down!), and I have a concrete lion console on my porch. But the thing that makes me smile the most is that in my folly of an office I used lion drawer pulls (mini me's of the doorknocker) to hold cording on a valance. Yup. Count me in on the wild side! Absolutely adore the bed you showed!

  4. this was interesting.
    on either side of my garage door i have large lion planters.
    then i have 2 lions inside the vestibule that leads to my fron door.
    they are very old, with great faces.

    it's all good

  5. The lion motif is one of my favorites and these are all wonderful examples!

  6. Alaine: Thank you! Yes, alas, the chair and the bed have been sold. Just think of the expense I have spared you! For you and for me - just a lovely coup d'oeil!

    Bonjour, Cynthia. Quel beau sourire! Glad to have jogged your memory. Your pin sounds too nice to forget about!

    HbD: I grew up in the company of ball and claw, goat and lion feet. My grandparents had griffons on their mantel piece. I guess I had to get back to animalia. Love the Schnauzer story. Our cat curls up quite confidently between the paws of the table - but then, they are related!

  7. Renée: You are protected! The faces do count a lot. I always find it funny when lions at an entrance look bored or resigned.

    Devoted Classicist: Thank you!

  8. TG: Il faut ou il ne faut pas réveiller un lion qui dort?

  9. lovely post! but then i am an animal person.

    i wonder what it says about our culture that we have moved on a little from the almost ubiquitous "lion" to definitely impossible to avoid "hello kitty"!?

  10. Mlle: Good question. Wouldn't it be nice if the kawaii proved to be more effective than the ferocious? You know like 'Monsters Inc.' where the laugh ends up to be more powerful than the scream of fear. Well, in theory, anyway - because I wouldn't want to do without our long maned beasts!