Saturday, February 14, 2009
Daniel in the Lion's Den
The most common mistake made by artists when depicting 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' is showing Daniel to be much younger than he actually was. Most children's Bibles show Daniel to be between 20 and 40 years of age when this event in his life happened. A close inspection of the dates in the margins of your Bible reveal that Daniel was around 80 years old when thrown to the lions!
When I was comparing the many versions of this scene painted by different artists. I noticed something interesting about the lion's den itself. Artists like Henry Ossawa Tanner, J. James Tissot, W A Foster and Briton Riviere show a purpose built lion's den, rather like a stone prison cell, whereas Rubens, Gustav Dore and others favor an underground cave, either naturally formed or hewn out of the rock. I noticed that the pictures that portrayed the den as a cave were less menacing to the viewer than those which depicted the den as a purpose built cell. The reason for this, I believe, is that the lions which are shown lying in a natural cave look almost like they're relaxing in their natural habitat. Whereas, the lions shown pacing up and down an empty stone cell look much more restless and agitated. These lions are being contained in a purpose built waste disposal unit! The monotony for them was only broken when an unfortunate victim was thrown in!
As the lion's den appears to be in the grounds of King Darius' palace, it would make sense that it was a purpose built enclosure. In my version, (above), I originally showed lots of blood spattered on the walls of the cell, but I decided that, as this picture is for a children's Bible, I should remove some! Although some kids love the gory bits!
I very much liked the lighting in the version of 'Daniel in the Lion's Den' by Henry Ossawa Tanner which is a feature of his work that we've discussed before on the blog.
Harold Copping added a nice touch to his version of this picture also. The reflective eyes of the lions in the semi-darkness are lit by the light coming in through the opening above. Copping also shows the den to be only about 8 foot high which also makes sense. Most artists, including myself, depict the den as being much higher.
As always, we look forward to your comments.