The Lion in Love



Aesop was said to be a slave and lived between 620 and 560BC in Ancient Greece. He wrote this fable about a Lion who falls in love with a girl. Her father consents to their marriage, on one condition: to ensure the girl’s safety, the lion must pull out his teeth, and file down his claws. This the lion does, whereupon the father and men in the village attack him, and drive him away into the forest.

In the fable the girl’s actions and opinions go unmentioned. We don’t know whether she loved or hated the lion, or how much her father told her of his plans. In the painting, she becomes the main focus. Hiding her face preserves the ambiguity of her role in tricking the lion. Depicted naked and at the edge of a bed this story is about the power and manipulation of her sexuality. Her father uses her sexual influence as a weapon against the lion, without our knowing the extent of her involvement or consent. Depending on our reading of her involvement she is either a victim or a victor.

‘Love can blind the wildest,’ is the acknowledged final moral of this story; but at the same time as discussing the destabilising and potentially dangerous forces of attraction, it also reveals the benefits of cunning over strength. Many of Aesop’s fables favour the underdog or trickster character who outwits a greater power. They were written in antiquity to teach political wisdom to adults, using cynicism and satire to reveal an amoral world that does not reward abstract virtue. Often the tales celebrate values and actions that are disapproved of by society. They were told primarily by slaves and hinted at ways to overturn social order. The animal characters symbolise the anonymous and driving forces of nature, as they cannot be anything but themselves, representing the timeless ‘truths’ of humanity.


Oil on Wooden panel
Width 115cm
Height 115 cm

Based on Aesop's fable see text below image.