Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Guennol Lioness, oh my.

Tiny Sculpture Brings $57 Million, that's the AP headline on Dec. 5, 2007. Funny how money grabs all the attention.

Take a look at this small miracle of hand fashioned stone.
Forget about the money. Just look at this swirling form, human and lion merged, poses intertwined, what was this magician thinking? This mythic woman-lioness is facing us down with a penetrating sideways stare, her arms flexed, rippling in a muscular display befitting the alpha female. Five thousand years ago, some ancient tribe faced down and defeated a lioness, sowing the seeds of a mythology which was fertile for the next four thousand years. Looking at the face of the lioness, it should be clear that this carving was the result of close observation and that five thousand years ago, close observation of a big cat meant either victory or death. This small edifice became a fitting way to celebrate the victory, one which has entered into the collective memory of mankind. This seems like a good definition for art. It’s just a small piece of carved and incised stone, but what a piece of stone. WOW!

Guennol Lioness
A Magnesite or Crystalline Limestone Figure of a Lioness.
Elam circa 3000-2800 B.C.
Height 3 1/4 in. 8.26 cm.
Location: Sotheby's New York, 12/5/2007-Lot 30
Pre-Sale Estimate. 14,000,000—18,000,000 USD
Lot Sold.    57,161,000 USD (inc. Buyers premium)

Guennol Lioness - circa 3000-2800 B.C

Guennol Lioness - circa 3000-2800 B.C
Photos: © Sotheby's

The price is a record for a sculpture, etc... Link to Sothebys lot details, (requires registration.)


C. Crowe said...

Great post--I got here from the "Google trends" page and this was right there on top. this is probably the most interesting sculpture I've very seen. It's kind of amazing actually.

George said...

Yes, when I said "Funny how money grabs all the attention." I meant it, but the news item made me look at this particular sculpture again, and that was good. Although I had seen it before, it was a dim memory until today. I was looking at the news for Sotheby's stock [NYSE:BID] and came across the AP news item about the sale.

When I saw the reproductions, I was just blown away. It is a profound artwork, regardless of price and its historical importance. In a small simple carving, the maker has fused or merged three physical poses which then can carry a more complex symbolic stimulus to the observer. At first I had not considered the larger implications implied by the accurate sculptural description of the lioness. Then it occurred to me that a large cat, a lion is a very, very dangerous animal. That a lion had been killed and observed by whoever made this beautiful sculpture. This small carving is encoded with a symbolic representation of a moment in the history of the deep past that someone considered very important.

Even though we do not, cannot, know what its maker was thinking, even why it was made, we can still respond to the manifestation of a righteous attitude guiding a willfull and inspired intent, to create an object which might alter or reveal the world of its maker.

Anonymous said...

In Hindu mythology there is a form called Narasimha (which means human like lion) and it is depicted as human form with the head of a lion and claws. hmmm...

Adeaner said...

Great blog. Just discovered it.
Why don't you have an OLDER POSTS link on the bottom to make it easy to go back through . . . .
instead of having to deal with the archives ?

Hans said...

Thanks for posting the Lioness, wunderschön !

Anonymous said...

The buyer of the Lioness is unknown but there is only one person in the world that is befitting of her and can afford her;Elizabeth II Queen of England.The time was right.Congrats!

Anonymous said...

I don't want to seem obtuse but, why are they calling this a lioness? I'm not so sure it is -- I mean, the abdomen and waist shape is definitively female but the chest and musculature of the arms and legs are male. I have to assume they are using that it's maneless as a signifier however the man-eating lions of Tsavo were males, and maneless. It looks like a very Shamanic blend of male, female and animal. What a wonderful, curious and mysterious piece to have in a world so jaded toward mystery. Thank you for this!