A lion's head fragment from a 2nd century (Kushan period) pillar capital
The red mottled sandstone realistically carved to resemble a lion's head
Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, circa 100 A.D.
Height 22 cm
Width 23 cm
For a comparable example:
Victoria and Albert Museum, London, IS. 712-1883
Mathura Museum, # 00.04.4, published in Ancient Sculpture from India, The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1964, fig. 67.
Sotheby's: Indian & Southeast Asian Works of Art, New York, 19 sept 2008, lot 268
This figure would have been placed guarding the doorway to a religious or secular monument and is intended to be viewed from a frontal position and therefore only the front quarters are depicted.
Beginning in the Maurya period the lion became an extremely popular motif and is used extensively in Indian art and architecture. In Buddhism the lion is the symbol of the Shakya clan from which Buddha Shakyamuni is descended and so it plays a major role in Buddhist iconography.
There are numerous extant examples of guardian lions but this particular one, despite its fragmentary nature, has remarkable presence, the sculptor masterfully capturing the vigilant state of the animal as it appears ready to pounce at the first sign of attack.