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Lion Crushing a Serpent

Multiple versions were cast, including this one in the Metropolitan Museum, New YOrk City


Albert Boime offers a political interpretation of Barye’s Lion Crushing a Serpent:

“The most important topical signification of this group, however, was the Lyons uprising of 1831. When in November of that year the silk workers, masters and journeymen alike, were frustrated in their attempts to regulate the price of their product and to demand a tariff on their goods, they chose to defy the municipal government and rose in rebellion….The prefect of Lyons was recalled and replaced, garrisons were installed, the local population disarmed, and mass arrests carried out. 

These events could not have failed to affect Barye. His own family had originated from Lyons, fleeing to Paris during the turmoil of 1793 when the Jacobins waged war on the aristocrats and conservative bourgeoisie. The memories of this even still haunted Barye’s family, and they may have been anxious about relatives at the end of 1831. Given these facts, Barye’s Lion Crushing a Serpent may be seen as a meaningful statement about social order: the lion here refers generally to royalty and more specifically to the city of Lyons, whose coat of arms bears a rampant lion with snarling muzzle below a zone of the royal fleurs-de-lys. Thus Barye’s sculpture, first undertaken in 1832, allegorizes the forces of state and municipal government vanquishing the serpent of anarchy and insurrection that had dared to raise its monstrous head in November of the previous year.”

Albert Boime, Art in an Age of Counterrevolution 1815-1848 (Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, 2004), 336-7.

Related Works:

Lion and Serpent No. 3, 1832 The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Bull Attached by a Bear, n.d., Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Horse Attacked by a Lion, 1833, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Jaguar Devouring a Crocodile, 1830s, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

Lion Devouring an Antelope, 1835, The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

About the Artist

Born: Paris, 24 September 1796
Died: Paris, 25 June 1875
Nationality: French