Artworks | Pair of Stilophore Lions
The geographical diffusion of the iconography of the stilophore lion [lions bearing a column], seated or rampant, bearing a column on its back, underwent a notable development in southern Italy and in other Christian countries towards the end of the eleventh century, being commonly adopted in architecture until the beginning of the sixteenth century in the outlying areas of the region. The iconographic theme of the stilophore lion, (from the Greek, stilo = column, a symbol of strength) was soon adapted to Christian worship, used as an element of common architectural ornament in the columns of the porticoes and pulpits during the Romanesque period, evoking the supporting role towards the institution of the Church and a parallel with the figure of Christ. The significance of the image of this noble creature was enriched in the course of the centuries with religious symbolism, becoming an element of great theological debate within the Church itself. The lion watching over Christianity in the same way as Christ on the Cross, the lion with its mane in front and smooth fur behind, like Christ the man and at the same time the son of God, the lion that is reborn when Christ is resurrected, are some of the many symbolic theological values attributed to this magnificent animal.
The proliferation of this particular iconographic typology, particularly strong in the region of southern Italy derives from popular??? images carved for funerary purposes during Roman times, datable to between the end of the 1st century BC to the beginning of the 1st century AD, as shown by the many examples in the Campana region (Pompei, Benevento and Sepino).
The provenance from a Sicilian collection of the present pair enables us to locate them in that Swabian and Angevin cultural milieu, where the reuse also of much older marble elements from classical times was common practice.
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