Published 15th April 2013
Having mentioned the leonine characteristic of the rather bizarre kylin I thought I may stray into less fantastical territory and focus on the depiction of lions in Staffordshire pottery. However, having said as much I have found that the lion was considered a symbol of Resurrection because medieval belief had it that lion cubs were born dead for three days until their father breathed life into their faces.
Pair of Staffordshire Ralph Wood lions, circa 1780 (FS18/509)
A more commonly held belief is that lions are masters of the animal race and are symbolic of fortitude and strength. In Chinese art they were sculpted by the entrances of buildings to ward off demons. They were also popular motif for the British whose demons were probably ‘The French’. They appear in both ferocious mode like the pair of Ralph Wood lions illustrated as well as the rather unsubtle political stance depicting the British Lion and Napoleon III. (for an image see my blog of 14th August) The lion is a motif that has stayed the course one only has to look at our national football or cricketing shirts or even the name of the British rugby team.
A Staffordshire perlware Performing Bear group circa 1820 (FS18/508)
But back to our Staffordshire potters it seems that they were not averse to recycling the lion in a somewhat ignominious way. If you look closely at the Staffordshire performing bear group you will note that the handler’s dog is in fact a miniature lion forced to be a bit part player. How the mighty have fallen.
Detail of a Staffordshire Performing Bear group, how the mighty have fallen (FS18/508)