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Audio Stop 205

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As if sitting in an underground cave, we look onto a scene with a nearly nude man, muscular with pale, peachy skin sitting among seven male and two female lions in this horizontal painting. The man sits to our right of center with his legs crossed, elbows close to his body with hands clasped by his chest, head tipped back looking up towards a small opening above. He has long, wavy, chestnut brown hair and has dark eyes. A white loincloth covers his groin and he sits on a scarlet red swath of fabric draped up over a rock next to him. The nine lions stalk, sit, or lie down around the man. One male lion next to the man, to our left, opens his mouth with his head thrown back, curling tongue extended beyond long fangs. A human skull and other bones are strewn on the dirt ground close to us. The rocky cave curves up around the animals and man to a narrow, round opening showing blue sky above.

Sir Peter Paul Rubens

Daniel in the Lions' Den, c. 1614/1616

Not On View

Craig Saffoe, the National Zoo’s curator of Great Cats, explores Rubens’s depiction of lions in a key moment of drama.  

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