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A tale of two lions (part 1)

And then I recognised a lion. During a relaxed browse on the internet through photos of Drottningholm, the Swedish royal palace near Stockholm. Which is strange, because I’ve never been to Sweden (let alone to Africa). My last visit to any zoo must have been 4 years ago, and even then I saw no lions. How could this be?

Well, first of all: the lion I recognised was on a picture of a statue. And secondly his lookalike is situated in the west of The Netherlands, at De Paauw in Wassenaar. Close to home and I had taken pictures of that one shortly before I was browsing and found the one in Sweden.

drottningholmlion

The lions at Drottningholm (above, photo Pippi Netgirl)
and at De Paauw (below, photo HvdE).

depaauwlion

They are similar, although the finish of both statues is completely different: the details of the lion at De Paauw are much smoother, less outspoken than the Swedish specimen. The biggest difference is the watering hole forming the mouth of the Dutch lion (which is one of a set of two lions placed on either side of a water trough, or bath tub).
Apart from these superficial differences, they share a lot of features.

  • The hair on top of the head parts in a V-shape on both lions and the ears are similar (the ear of the Drottningholm lion is damaged, but one can see it is the same).
  • The facial features (eyebrows, cheekbones, nose) are the same and the spots where the whiskers would be are more outspoken in the Swedish lion, but the De Paauw specimen also has them.
  • The manes are similar.
  • The tendons (visible on the left forelegs and on their sides near the hindlegs) of both lions are shaped exactly the same.

And to top it off: there are horizontal lines that look like cracks or seams at both sides of the head on both lions, and they are at the same height.

depaauwlions The conclusion must be that these lions have been created after the same model. There must have been two models, though, because at De Paauw the lions have their tail on different sides of their body (both tails are visible from the house).
It looks like prefab workshop material, possibly delivered with smooth features, which could easily be adapted to the buyer’s taste when he wanted them to appear stronger, or at least more distinct. Which -as always- leaves me with more questions than answers, but the main ones are: where are they produced and who made them?

What I also do not know is whether the Drottningholm lion has company, nor do I know whether that lion was made for the palace gardens itself, or brought in afterwards. 1)Due to the fact that most literature about Drottningholm seems to be in Swedish and/or is concerned with the theatre of the palace. Combine that with the fact that the only publically available (in The Netherlands) copy of Nils G. Wollin’s book ‘The marbles in the Royal Park of Drottningholm and their origins‘ (Stockholm, 1965) is missing from its library in Amsterdam, and you can imagine why. The picture above is the only evidence I have of it.
The lions at De Paauw are reportedly a gift from tzar Alexander II to prince Frederik of The Netherlands (king Willem II’s younger brother), a donation that supposedly took place somewhere in the 1850s. That story, however, is riddled with uncertainty and opportunities to present an alternative view.

As is the case in all royal families in Europe, close ties are not hard to find between the two men. But how does Sweden tie in, and is that even important? More about that in part 2. For now, I leave you with two challenges: prove me wrong and spot the deciding differences I have missed; and educate me (us) on the provenance of the Drottningholm lion.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Due to the fact that most literature about Drottningholm seems to be in Swedish and/or is concerned with the theatre of the palace. Combine that with the fact that the only publically available (in The Netherlands) copy of Nils G. Wollin’s book ‘The marbles in the Royal Park of Drottningholm and their origins‘ (Stockholm, 1965) is missing from its library in Amsterdam, and you can imagine why.

One Response to “A tale of two lions (part 1)”

  1. on 31 Mar 2009 at 7:36 amHvdE

    I’ve found a picture (by Seki) on Picasa which clearly shows there are two lions at Drottningholm. They are not facing each other but looking out over the garden from both corners at the back of the theatre.

    Judging by their tails (they both turn to the right side of the lion’s body) only one model was used here.

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