This 13th-century fresco of a lion was painted near Burgos in Spain, probably by an itinerant English artist from Winchester. I just saw it on the wall at the Cloisters, the Met’s medieval department far uptown in Manhattan. For me, this fresco represents medieval art at its best: Ferocious and unforgiving, with ties to its barbarian and pagan past that are as strong as its ties to the ancient and Christian Mediterranean. The painting comes from a monastery, but could as well be from a castle wall. (And let’s not forget that most monks were members of the warrior aristocracy.) As the Met’s wall text informs us, several medieval documents insist that “images of animal, birds, serpents and other things are for adornment and beauty only.”
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