Thursday, 28 April 2011

St. Jerome Might Want to Look Into Getting a New Pet

Today we see what Albrecht Durer, 15th century German painter and engraver, thought lions looked like:

St. Jerome Penitent in the Wilderness, Albrecht Durer, 1496

I have no idea if he thought he was going for some visual symmetry with Saint Jerome, or if his perception of the world was just a little skewed (I’ve never known an elderly scholar to be that ripped, after all), but there are DEFINITELY some problems with this lion.

First of all, he’s pissed. And why wouldn’t he be? He appears to be balding.

He looks just like the type of balding man who insists on keeping his long hair, as if the volume around his shoulders will distract from his bald, gleaming crown.*

Rather than being a saintly symbol for all that is noble in the animal kingdom, this lion falls much more into the ‘henchman’ category. Imagine you’re having a chat with Jerome and this lion sidles up behind him: there’s no way you’re going to screw with the guy.

In fact, he reminds of a specific henchman:

*Note to men: this does not work.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Reader Submission

Today’s submission comes from the lovely Joanne.

This statue of two lions is, apparently, in Cambodia. More importantly, it’s hideous.

And, although perspective can be a tricky thing, it appears to be very large.

Because if you’re going to make ugly art, you may as well make it enormous!*

The gold color used here wouldn’t be problematic in and of itself, but with the odd wiry black hairs, the bright white teeth, and the red inside the male’s mouth, it becomes downright offensive to the eyes.

Speaking of eyes—these are CRAZY. Just stare into the male's eyes for a second, and then tell me he doesn't have some deep-seated issues, clawing to get out.

But I think the worst part for me is the lioness’ neck.

Can someone please tell me why she’s part snake?

Found a bad lion? Send it in to!

*This is, as far as I'm concerned, Jeff Koons' motto in life.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Carpaccio's Lion of St. Mark

Ticking the checkboxes of what makes a lion, today’s entry is really not that bad:

The Lion of St. Mark, 1516

The ears are cat-ears, the mane is fine, the paws are good, the tail is totally normal…and yet.

The face will haunt my nightmares for years to come. I really don’t know what it is—it’s got a kitty snout and a kitty mouth and its EYES ARE STARING INTO MY SOUL.

Even worse: they don’t like what they see.

Monday, 18 April 2011

More Taxidermy!

The Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) mascot is the “nittany lion”, which refers to mountain lions living on Mount Nittany near the university.

So far, so good. Big cats make excellent mascots. They’re awesome, and people don’t look as racist dressed up as lions or tigers as, say, the “fighting Irish" or the “Redskins”.

In 1920, the school was gifted with a pair of stuffed mountain lions, purported to be the last of their kind (mountain lions were hunted out of Pennsylvania).

Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘hey, 1920 wasn’t that long ago!’ (Not like 1731). ‘And it was a local animal! The taxidermist must have had some idea what it was doing!’

And, compared to that Swedish lion, you’d be right.*

However, compared to nature?

Perhaps not so much.

I don’t know what it is about taxidermy that morphs animals into Saturday morning cartoons, but this poor lion is one step away from a sidekick and some zany adventures.

*Of course, compared to Siegfried, my banner is a realistic depiction of a lion.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Our First Reader Submission!

Today's lion comes from the lovely Sarah.

Because nothing says ‘strength’ like a labradoodle.

Who’s a good boy? You're a good boy!

Found a bad lion? Send it in to

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

St. Jerome and the what now?

For those of you who don’t know, St. Jerome was a 4th century priest and scholar, who translated the Bible into Latin. There’s also a very popular medieval story that tells of Jerome removing a thorn from a lion’s paw, leaving the beast forever indebted to him, which is what brings him to our blog today.

One of the main signifiers of Jerome in art is the lion, in addition to a long white beard, and a book. Academic and lion-tamer: that’s what you get from these paintings.

A fine example is the one below:

Rogier Van der Weyden, St. Jerome, 1460 (?).

And we see immediately why Jerome is considered a saint. The reaction of anyone else confronted with that “lion” would be "Kill it! Kill it with fire!”

I can’t even begin to analyze what’s wrong with this lion, because I’m too busy cowering under the bed, terrified it’s going to come after me in my sleep.

But probably the most important factor to note is: holy shit, it has the face of a man.

Let’s just take a moment to remember what a LION looks like at this point:

…yeah. Better luck next time, Rogier.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Reggie the Lion

A good place to start in this epic journey of lions (besides Siegfried down there) is the mascot for my school: Reggie the Lion.

I’m using the term “mascot” as loosely as possible, because the dictionary tells me “mascot” means something that “brings good luck” and I think we can all agree that there’s nothing good about this whatsoever.

I walked past this every day for months before someone told me it was our mascot, and, frankly, I was shocked. I had assumed that it was some kind of papier mache project made by special ed children, possibly displayed by the Department of Education.

But no: It’s a sculpture! That the institution paid money for!*

Trust me, I’m as surprised as anyone.

It’s hard to narrow down my favorite quality of dear Reggie. The lumpy texture that belies some kind of terrible skin condition? The incongruently Asiatic influence, giving a strange aura of imperialism to our stairway? The fact that it was not only made by someone who had never seen a lion before, but possibly someone who is, in fact, blind?

Ah, Reggie…the pride I feel when I walk by your noble form.

*granted, not a lot of money. Nevertheless...
In beginning this blog, I should perhaps start with an explanation. Now, I know you’re thinking, ‘what’s there to explain? I’ve been waiting my whole life for a blog about crappy lions in art,' but bear with me.

The other day my friend Will sent me this link that shows an 18th century lion, taxidermied by someone who had clearly never seen a lion before in his life.

Naturally, I thought the taxidermist was an artistic genius, but I also pointed out that this was a common fate for the lion in art. Especially in medieval to renaissance work, it always seems like most painters had never even seen a cat before, let alone a lion. Most of the time, it seemed like they were painting based on a description they got in the pub, from someone who knew someone whose cousin once slept with a girl who had seen a lion. From there, they did the best they could.

The lion: art’s great guessing game.

Thus, out of peer pressure, this blog was born.

Please enjoy the man/bear/pigs that follow.