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The British Museum Lion

Alfred, the British Museum lion

 

Height: 35.100 cm
Length: 10.200 cm (base)
Width: 10.200 cm (base)

M&ME 1983,12-5,1

Room 47: Europe 1800-1900

    The British Museum Lion

    London, England, AD 1852

    Cast iron figure of a lion modelled by the sculptor Alfred Stevens

    After the main gates and railings of the British Museum had been installed in May 1852, a second lower set of railings was erected outside to mark the museum's boundary. These railings were ornamented at intervals with twenty-five cast iron lions, modelled by Alfred Stevens (1817-75), one of the leading sculptors of his day. The dignified regal posture of the lion was greatly admired at the time, and it is thought that Stevens may have been inspired by a particularly impressive cat belonging to one of his friends.

    In 1895 the miniature railing was dismantled to make way for pavement improvements, and the lions were dispersed. Some of the railings, complete with twelve lions, were later installed in St Paul's Cathedral around the Wellington Monument, which Stevens had designed in 1856. From 1896 onwards, the Covent Garden firm of Messrs D. Brucciani & Co. made bronze casts of Stevens' lions, which were sold for 7s. 6d. each. Other variants were produced in earthenware by the Manchester firm of Pilkington's Tile and Pottery Company between 1899-1900, and by Carter & Co., of Poole, Dorset, during the early 1900s.

    J. Rudoe, Decorative arts 1850-1950: a c, 2nd ed. (London, The British Museum Press, 1994)

    K.R. Towndrow, Alfred Stevens, architectural (London, 1939)

    S. Beattie, Alfred Stevens 1817-75 (London, 1975)