Lion Resting, Turned to the Left; Rembrandt van Rijn
Pen and brown ink, brown wash; roughly 5 1/2 x 8 inches (14 x 20cm).
Link is to WikiArt, which has a downloadable file (choose “Original, 1600×1067”); there is also a cropped version on Wikipedia. The original is supposed to be in the Louvre, Paris, but the Louvre website is so terrible, I can’t find it, only a reference to a show in which it was included.
Rembrandt’s drawings are among my favorites in all of art history, and this seemingly simple drawing of a lion is among my favorites of his drawings.
Rembrandt did a number of lion drawings, presumably of the same animal. This one stands out, however.
It has the calligraphic elegance of Chinese ink painting, but over the classical draftsmanship of the premiere Dutch master.
The rough, gestural application of wash succinctly defines the lion’s head and mane, giving them an impression of texture, as well.
I love the implied geometric strength with which he’s noted the lion’s rear leg, suggesting the structural anatomy of the skeleton, the fluid sweep of the tail and the fierce but composed expression of the captive animal.
I’m sure to Rembrandt, this was just a sketch, a visual notation of something he found interesting, but it’s completely satisfying as a finished work of art.