The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mosaic of a Lion Attacking an Onager

Object Details


Mosaic of a Lion Attacking an Onager






Tunisia (Place Created)

near Avenue Tahar-Sfar (formerly Marachel-Foch), near Sousse, Tunisia (Place Found)


A.D. 150–200


Stone and glass tesserae

Object Number:



98.4 × 160 × 7.6 cm (38 3/4 × 63 × 3 in.)

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Object Description

A lion sinks his teeth and claws into the back of a fallen onager (wild ass) in the scene portrayed on this fragmentary mosaic. Blood flows from the wounded victim, who attempts to fight back, turning towards the lion. The scene takes place in an outdoor setting characterized by two trees, one on each side, and the bank of a stream in the foreground; the sky is suggested by a neutral, white background. A border survives on two adjoining sides of the fragment, but the original extent of the mosaic on the other sides is unknown. A single polychrome guilloche runs below the main scene. The mosaic is formed from tesserae, small cubes of colored marble, stone, and glass, set into a bed of mortar.

This small panel likely decorated the floor of a luxurious villa in Hadrumetum (present-day Sousse, Tunisia). Although the scene could be considered complete in itself, it probably featured in a larger floor depicting several scenes. Mosaics of animal combat in natural settings as well as in the arena were especially popular in Roman mosaics of North Africa. In the second century A.D., the Roman province of Africa, including modern Tunisia, was flourishing. The region was important both economically and politically, and this wealth and power translated into artistic production. More mosaics survive from Tunisia than any other part of the Roman Empire.


before 1914

Found: near Avenue Tahar-Sfar (formerly Marachel-Foch), near Sousse, Tunisia (first recorded in Foucher 1960)

by 1914

heirs of M. Sergent

by 1961 -

Private Collection (Dijon, France)

- 1973

Private Collection (New Jersey) [sold, Antiquities, Sotheby's, New York, May 4, 1973, lot 199, to the J. Paul Getty Museum.]

Roman Mosaics across the Empire (March 30, 2016 to January 8, 2018)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), March 30, 2016 to January 8, 2018

Foucher, Louis. Inventaire des mosaïques, feuille no 57 de l'Atlas archéologique: Sousse (Tunis: Institut National d'Archéologie et Arts, 1960), no. 57.040.

"Datant de l'occupation phocéenne en Tunisie: cette fresque(exposée à Dijon galerie Vauban) a 2.400 ans!" Le Bien Public [Dijon, France.] (April 19, 1961), p. 4, ill.

Foucher, Louis. La Maison de la procession dionysiaque à El Jem (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1963), p. 90, fig. 11c.

Balil, A. "Notas iconograficas sobre algunos mosaicos de Sussa." Les Cahiers de Tunisie 45-46, nos. 7-8 (1964), no. 57.040, fig. 3.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York advertisement. Apollo 97 (April 1973), p. 127.

Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York advertisement. Die Weltkunst 97, iss. 7 (April 1, 1973), p. 482, ill.

Sotheby-Parke Bernet, New York. May 4, 1973, lot 199.

Neuerberg, Norman. "Mosaic of a Lion Attacking a Horse." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 2 (1975), p. 51.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 60.

Parrish, D. "A Mosaic of a Lion Attacking an Onager." Karthago 21 (1987) pp. 113-134.

von Hesberg, Henner. "Die Löwenkampfgruppe auf dem Kapitol und ihre Wiederholung in Augsburg: Zum Problem des 'Realismus' in frühhellenistischer Zeit." Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, Römische Abteilung 94 (1987), p. 110, n. 8.

Stroszek, Jutta. Löwen-Sarkophage, Sarkophage mit Löwenkopfen, schreitenden Löwen und Löwen-Kampfgruppen [Die antiken Sarkophagreliefs VI,1] (Berlin, 1998), pp. 58n491 - 59n504.

Belis, Alexis. Roman Mosaics in the J. Paul Getty Museum. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2016), no. 5, entry by Alexis Belis.

Goette, Hans Rupprecht. “Zur ‘Löwenkampfgruppe auf dem Kapitol’.” In Excellence. Studies in Honour of Olga Palagia. H. R. Goette and I. Leventi, eds. (Rahden: Verlag Marie Leidorf GmbH, 2019), p. 148, fig. 2.