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Model - Head of a lion

Head of a lion

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    England (made)

  • Date:

    ca.1858 - ca. 1866 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Landseer, Edwin Henry (Sir), born 1802 - died 1873 (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plaster painted

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the sisters of the artist, Mrs Mackenzie and Miss Landseer in 1880.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This plaster model of the head of a colossal lion by Sir Edwin Landseer is a model for the lions at the base of Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square. Landseer was commissioned to design the lions in 1858, and they were cast by Carlo Marochetti in 1866, and unveiled in January 1867. The main section of the monument to Admiral Nelson had been completed in 1843, but the lions were not in place until over 20 years later. Two previous sculptors had been approached, John Lough (1798-1876) who failed to produce any designs, and Thomas Milnes (c.1810-1888), whose designs were rejected. Landseer was invited to submit models because of his skill as an animal painter.

Landseer was indeed one of the most popular British painters of his day. Landseer was commissioned in 1858 to design the four bronze lions to sit at the four corners of the column. The lions, which were cast by Carlo Marochetti in 1866, and unveiled in January 1867, represent Landseer's first use of bronze. Blackwood recorded that the main section of the Nelson memorial was completed by 1843, with the figure of Nelson being executed by Edward Hodges Baily. He notes that 'the famous lions took a full sixty-two years to assume guard. The first sculptor commissioned, John Lough, failed to provide any. Thomas Milnes' lions were so lacking in spirit that they were rejected. Finally on the strength of his skill as a painter of animals, Sir Edwin Landseer was brought in'.

Physical description

Colossal head of a lion. Experimental design by the late Sir Edwin Landseer, R.A., for two of the figures of lions at the base of Nelson's column in Trafalgar Square. The model has sustained some damage, though the integral festures of the head remain intact.

Place of Origin

England (made)


ca.1858 - ca. 1866 (made)


Landseer, Edwin Henry (Sir), born 1802 - died 1873 (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Plaster painted


Height: 149 cm approx.

Object history note

Given by Mrs Mackenzie and Miss Landseer, sisters of the artist, in 1880.

Descriptive line

Model, painted plaster, colossal head of a lion, by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer R.A., England, ca. 1858-66

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

List of Objects in the Art Division, South Kensington Museum acquired during the Year 1880. London, 1881, p. 25
Bilbey, Diane with Trusted, Marjorie. British Sculpture 1470 to 2000. A Concise Catalogue of the Collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum. London, 2002, p. 313, cat no. 478
Blackwood, J., London's Immortals. The Complete Outdoor Commemorative Statues, London and Oxford, 1989, pp. 252, 254
Gleichen, Lord E., London's Open Air Statuary, London, 1928, p.8
Ormond, R with contributions by Rishel, J and Hamlyn, R., Sir Edwin Landseer, (Exhibition Catalogue), Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia and Tate Gallery, London. London, 1981, pp. 204-6





Subjects depicted

Lion (animal)


Sculpture; A Year of Objects: October, Trafalgar Day


Sculpture Collection

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