Saturday, 11 January 2014

Life with the Lions

I can't get enough of those lions from Nineveh.  Here's another one I photographed on Friday:

Whoever carved that into stone in 650 BC knew lions, the way we think we know lions from watching so many TV wildlife specials, all shot with very long lenses by expert cameramen.  I expect the artist had a dead one to work from, but even so, that image is bursting with vitality, and exudes the pain, fear and panic of a fearsome predator fleeing for its life.  Just look at those forelegs, packed with muscle and sinew, like a heavyweight boxer's arms, or that magnificent gasping profile, or the tension in the beast's loping stride.  It's just amazing.

By contrast, here is an illustration from a book I have owned since I was 10, A Hand-Book to the Carnivora, Part I: Cats, Civets, and Mungooses, published in Allen's Naturalists' Library in 1896 (AD):

Oh, dear.  Clearly, this artist has never truly seen a lion, much less attempted to inhabit its soul, and has merely put a lion wig on the family labrador. And, just to play fair, here is my own closest encounter with a real (plastic) lion, some six inches away:

Grrrrr....  Still, it has a certain something, I think.

No comments: