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.)

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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.


Found: near Sousse, Tunisia

by 1914

heirs of M. Sergent

by 1961 -

Private Collection (Dijon, France)

- 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, 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. 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.

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

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