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Fragment, The Lion Strangler

This is a Fragment. It is dated early–mid-12th century and we acquired it in 1902. Its medium is silk, gilded vellum with silk core and its technique is two integrated plain weave structures (lampas). It is a part of the Textiles department.

This rare textile depicting a figure known as the “lion strangler” is a fragment of a tunic, or dalmatic, from the tomb of Saint Bernat Calvó (1180-1243) in Vich Cathedral, Barcelona. Calvó was bishop of Vich and accompanied James I, king of Aragon, during the capture of Valencia from the Moors in 1238. This textile may be part of the spoils of this conquest. It was woven in Spain, possibly in the silk production center of Almería, under the Almoravid Dynasty, the Amazigh (Berber) rulers from 1090 to 1150.
A hero strangling a lion was an enduring motif in the ancient Middle East. Possibly referring to the myth of Gilgamesh or Herakles, it was considered a symbol of Persian royal power. When medieval Islamic weavers brought the motif to Europe, Christians interpreted it as a depiction of the Biblical story of Daniel in the lion’s den. In this fragment, each roundel features this scene and is surrounded with bands of pearls and griffins. It also contains an upturned Kufic inscription which reads “al-yumn,” or prosperity.

This object was donated by John Pierpont Morgan. It is credited Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.

  • Roundel (Egypt)
  • warp: undyed s-spun wool; wefts: s-spun red wool; s-spun white linen; s-spun....
  • Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.
  • 1902-1-71
  • Fragment (Spain)
  • silk, metallic yarns (gilded parchment wound around linen core).
  • Gift of John Pierpont Morgan.
  • 1902-1-311

Our curators have highlighted 2 objects that are related to this one.

Its dimensions are

H x W: 49.3 x 52.7 cm (19 7/16 x 20 3/4 in.)

Cite this object as

Fragment, The Lion Strangler; Previously owned by Francisco Miquel y Badia (Spanish, 1840 - 1899); Spain; silk, gilded vellum with silk core; H x W: 49.3 x 52.7 cm (19 7/16 x 20 3/4 in.); Gift of John Pierpont Morgan; 1902-1-220

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Fragment, The Lion Strangler |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=4 December 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>