A Wonderful 16thC Northern European Black Painted & Carved Beech Model of A Lion c.1570-1600

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Origin: German, Dutch or Norwegian
Period: Mid-Renaissance
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1570-1600
Height: 7”
Width: 9.75”
Depth: 3” (all at extremities)

The wonderful sixteenth century painted and carved one-piece beech model formed as a lion, couchant regardant, having an open roaring mouth, richly flowing mane, crossed front paws and delineated ribs, showing the original surfaces with an exquisite patina, the painted decoration now beautifully worn and craquelured, surviving from the last quarter of the sixteenth century, and northern Europe.

The choice of wood of this creation has affected the condition of this work of art but the fact it has survived in the main is pleasing and overall it remains a hugely attractive piece in its entirety. His tail has some loss to the middle section but there are no other major areas of loss. There is a hole to the top of his head, which suggests he may have been hung, or perhaps he once bore a crown (leading to the assumption he may be Scandanavian) though we would have expected the crown to be carved in one piece as is the rest of the piece. The whole has a wonderful aged patina with areas of the beech showing through please refer to the photographs for a visual reference. Overall, the work has wear expected and commensurate with its age, now surviving for nearing five hundred years with patination outstanding.

The adoption of Christianity in both Scandinavia and parts of Europe brings about a gradual transformation in the arts. Churches of lasting materials are built and decorated in styles sometimes derived from local pre-Christian traditions and sometimes borrowed from Romanesque, Gothic, or Byzantine work. In around 1580 when this piece was created, in Scandinavia in particular sculpted altarpieces were no longer in demand, and sculptors retooled their shops to execute architectural ornament and funerary monuments.

The northern parts of Europe have always been a perfect location for craftsmen working in wood. The soft woods, as used here, provided an inexhaustible source of raw material for the carpenter's craft. There is a possibility this lion is Norwegian or Dutch but Germany seems the most likely place of origin.

Around the time this piece was crafted, Ivan the Terrible, Tsar of Russia, was ordering massacres, whilst the British navigator Sir Francis Drake passed through Maluku on his circumnavigation of the world.

A rare survivor displaying a truly outstanding surface.

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