Low-relief on Nembro marble stone depicting a lion leone marciano andante type facing left, his right anterior paw on an open book. Exceptional modelling of the body.
With the seizing of the body of Saint Mark by Venice the city acquired with it its iconography, the winged lion from the Tetramorph. However the lion soon looses its religious association, wiped out by its new political dimension. During the Renaissance period the leone marciano is a widespread motif within the city of Venice and its inland dominions. As detached statuary inside churches or standing on columns, on palaces or lodges frescoes or as low-relief on bridges and street façades. Sometime apotropaic the winged lion acts mainly as the expression of an insular community proudly claiming its power and identity through the beast’s figure.
The latin inscription Pax Tibi Marce Evangelista Meus means « May the peace be with you Mark, my evangelist ». Ostentatiously shown it reminds the Republic of Venice of a certain quiety guarantee given by God to a land he chose for the body of the saint.
This low-relief probably took place upon the façade of rich venetian house. The artist’s craftmanship is remarkable with the modelling of the lion, progressively emerging out of the plate. Its paws appears solidly attached to the stone while the top of his head and wings come forward out of the plate. It gives an impressive yet measured overhang effect for the streetwalkers. The craftman achieved a noteworthy modelling work giving the lion a realistic flesh and muscle with bulging ribs.
The lion physiognomy is very close to 16th century models with the realistic muzzle, the wings design and the fur line on his anterior paws.
The lack of erosion traces on the stone yet characteristics of the Venetian climate lead us to think the relief comes from an inland dominion as Cremona (Lombardia) for instance, conquered by Venice in 1499 and not far from Nembro marble quarry.
RIZZI Alberto, I Leoni di San Marco: il simbolo della Repubblica Veneta nella scultura e nella pittura, Vol I – II, 2001
RIZZI Alberto, I Leoni di San Marco: il simbolo della Repubblica Veneta nella scultura e nella pittura, Vol III, 2012
RUSKIN John, Les Pierres de Venise, trad. Mathilde Crémieux, Hermann, 2010