Mosaic of a Lion Attacking an Onager

Object Details


Mosaic of a Lion Attacking an Onager






Tunisia (Place created)
near Sousse, Tunisia (Place found)


late 2nd century


Stone and glass tesserae


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

See more

See less

Blood flows on the ground as a lion tears into the back of a fallen onager, or wild ass, on this fragment of a Roman floor mosaic. Although set in a natural landscape, the appeal of this scene for the Roman viewer lay in the immense popularity of wild beast fights staged as public entertainment in the amphitheater. In these shows, animals would fight one another or humans - either unarmed criminals or armed professionals.

In the 100s 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.

The mosaic is formed from tesserae, small cubes of colored marble, stone, and glass, set into a bed of mortar. A border survives on two sides of the mosaic, but the original extent of the mosaic on the other sides is unknown. The small size of the fragment suggests that it might be only part of a much larger floor depicting several scenes. Some parts of the mosaic appear to have been restored in antiquity.

by 1914

heirs of M. Sergent

- 1973

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

Roman Mosaics across the Empire (March 30 to September 12, 2016)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa (Malibu), March 30 to September 12, 2016

Foucher, Louis. Inventaire des Mosaiques: Sousse. Tunis: 1960. no. 57.040.

Le Bien Public, Dijon. April 19, 1961. No specific page references available (newspaper?).

Foucher, Louis. La Maison de la Procession dionysiaque à El Jem (Paris: Publications de l'Université de Tunis, 1963). p. 90, fig. 11c.

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

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

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

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

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

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