Height: 22.500 cm
Width: 16.500 cm
Thickness: 7.000 cm
Gift of the
Room 65: Sudan, Egypt & Nubia
Painted wooden lion's head
From Qasr Ibrim,
Early Coptic period, 7th-10th centuries AD
Probably part of an architectural element from an early Christian Church
Churches and other religious buildings were highly decorated in the Coptic period. The walls were painted with pictures of bishops and saints, and architectural elements were often carved with floral and faunal motifs. Pillars and friezes were often made of stone, but this example is unusual in that it is of wood. This lion's head, although schematised is still quite recognizable. It is carved in much higher raised relief than the leaves below, making it stand out. The curly leaves are characteristic of the floral motifs common in Coptic art. They are very similar to the acanthus leaves that appear in earlier Roman art, particularly those decorating the capitals of Corinthian columns. The basic colour of the lion is reddish brown, with details picked out in yellow and black. The yellow mane can be easily identified, curving around the face from ear to ear. In both pharaonic and Coptic times, black paint was usually derived from charcoal, and yellow and brown from forms of ochre.
The lower edge of the piece of wood is heavily burnt, suggesting that the rest of the object, and perhaps the entire building, was destroyed by fire.