Although the ancient Greeks used a variety of animals, including bulls, griffins and lions, to decorate tombs, lions were the most popular, typically functioning as guardian figures. This lion was discovered in a cemetery north of the Acropolis in 1914.
This sculpture illustrates the difficulty in using style to date a work. The Classical period in Greek sculpture, ending in 323 B.C. with the death of Alexander the Great, emphasized accuracy of physical details, as shown here in the veins and musculature of the feline body. However, the tufted mane, furrowed brow and facial features are more typical of the succeeding Hellenistic period, known for its greater expressiveness and variety of sculptural poses.