I have always been captivated by the iconic emblem of the majestic lion head that adorns front doors and other decorative elements, both interior and exterior. Not only does this emblem carry a sense of aristocratic grandeur but a timeless appeal. As the old saying goes, “The March wind roars like a lion in the sky….”, to herald Spring’s pending arrival, this is a perfect time to turn our attention to this classic emblem.
During the French Empire Style of the late 1700’s, classical motifs were applied to architectural fixtures, furniture and other decorative elements. The lions head was one of these motifs. Napoleon Bonaparte’s admiration for ancient forms of decoration set a precedent during this time. Dating back to the 18th century, the fierce, stoic lion signified courage, resilience and heroism. A style popular during this period was a ring handle clasped firmly in the mouth of a cast brass lions head added to furniture and other architectural & decorative pieces. The British regency and reign of King George IV of England saw a continuation of the influence of the French Empire Style. Again, European craftsmen revisited the ancient classical themes. The Regency Style was a period in which classical furniture prevailed and was embellished with the classic Roman and Greek decoration forms, such as winged griffins and lions heads. Anything that was popular in ancient Rome, Egypt and Greece was the trend to emulate. As the rule goes, what was old, was new again.
And what of the classic, traditional lions head door knocker? For thousands of years door knockers have been announcing visitors. Their original purpose was not decorative, but practical. It was during the Renaissance period that door knockers became more ornamental. Brass was the material of choice. Rightly so, as polished brass is visually distinctive to any door, even today. An element of class and distinction, I might add. As designs became more impressive, different styles came into fashion. The use of the lion head became a prominent choice.
I am always on the hunt for decorative elements that are adorned with the lions head. Statement pieces that are often overlooked for the interest they add. Now, understanding the history of the lions head appearance in decoration, I covet them even more! The lion head certainly has a timeless appeal. Indeed, “In Like a lion..” and always IN style.
“The March wind roars like a lion in the sky, and makes us shiver as he passes by. When winds are soft, and the days are warm and clear, just like a gentle lamb, then Spring is here”
– Author unknown