Lion Crushing a Serpent (1832, cast 1891)

by Antoine-Louis Barye (1796 - 1875)

Photo Caption: Photo Caitlin Martin © 2012 for the Association for Public Art
Rittenhouse Square, Walnut Street between 18th and 19th Streets
1832, cast 1891

  • Title

    Lion Crushing a Serpent

  • Artist

    Antoine-Louis Barye (1796 - 1875)

  • Year

    1832, cast 1891; installed 1892

  • Medium

    Bronze on granite base

  • Dimensions

    Height 4’6″, width 2'10", depth 5'9" (base 3’2″, width 3'11", depth 7'8")

  • Themes

    The Animal Kingdom

Purchased by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art)

Owned by the City of Philadelphia


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At A Glance

  • Part of the Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO program

  • The first sculpture installed in Rittenhouse Square

  • Barye is today esteemed as the founder of the Parisian “animaliers”

Although his contemporaries criticized his style and his choice of animal subjects, Barye is today esteemed as the founder of the Parisian animaliers.

The political symbolism of the lion of monarchy crushing the evil serpent was applauded…

He worked at a time of widespread public hope that the ruling government could be made liberal and responsive to its citizens. His choice of bronze over marble and his use of animals as symbols for human emotions were both considered radical.

The political symbolism of the lion of monarchy crushing the evil serpent was applauded by Louis Philippe, who made Barye a knight of the Legion of Honor in 1833. Later Barye was appointed professor of zoological drawing at the Museum of Natural History, where Auguste Rodin studied with him.

F. Barbedienne, whose foundry cast the Lion, interested Thomas Hockley, chairman of the Fairmount Park Art Association’s (now the Association for Public Art) Committee of Works of Art, in the sculpture. Hockley circulated subscription books in 1885, and six years later payment was made for a cast of the work, which was the first sculpture installed in Rittenhouse Square.

Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).

Lion Crushing a Serpent sculpture in Rittenhouse Square
Photo Caitlin Martin © 2013 for the Association for Public Art

RESOURCES:

Museum Without Walls logo: a program of the Association for Public Art

 

Voices heard in the program:

Judith F. Dolkart is the former Deputy Director of Art and Archival Collections and Gund Family Chief Curator of the Barnes Foundation. She organized an exhibition “Michelangelo of the Menagerie: Bronze Works by Antoine-Louis Barye” at the Brooklyn Museum.

Kay Buffamonte is the Lead Keeper of the “Big Cat Falls” at the Philadelphia Zoo.

Steven Tatti is the Chief Conservator for SAT Inc. He has been cleaning, waxing, and buffing this sculpture since the early 1980s.

Segment Producer: Jenna Weiss-Berman

A program of the Association for Public Art (formerly the Fairmount Park Art Association), Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an innovative and accessible outdoor sculpture audio program for Philadelphia’s preeminent collection of public art.

User calls Museum Without Walls Audio for Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture
Photo Albert Yee © 2010 for the Association for Public Art

A “multi-platform” interactive audio experience – available for free by cell phone, mobile app, or on our website – Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO offers the unique histories that are not typically expressed on outdoor permanent signage.

Unlike audio tours that have a single authoritative guide or narrator, each speaker featured in Museum Without Walls™: AUDIO is an “authentic voice” – someone who is connected to the sculpture by knowledge, experience, or affiliation.

Over 150 unique voices are featured, including artists, educators, scientists, writers, curators, civic leaders, and historians.

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This artwork is part of the Around Rittenhouse Square tour

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