The Lion in His Lair

  • Artist: Eugène Delacroix
  • Creation date: (1847)
  • Object type: Painting

On display: Room 054 The Collection Exhibition - A revolution in painting


The lion has just killed a hunter, who is seen on the ground with the beast on top of him. The hunter has evidently been surprised in the bush, as his unfired gun still lies in front of him. The wild lion and the man’s swarthy complexion and red turban locate the episode to North Africa, where Barbary lions could still be found in the mid-nineteenth century. With his claws planted in the hunter’s bloodied chest, the male lion now guards its prey. The composition is simple, with few elements giving away the action, time, or location. The tones are dark and earthy, with a few brighter dabs of red and blue.

Eugène Delacroix mentions the work in his diary for 29 March 1847: “Yesterday I started working on The Lion and the Dead Man again. I managed to tidy it up so much that I now feel like completing it.” The scene in the picture stems from an expedition Delacroix went on to Morocco in 1832. Similar to many other of the era’s romantic artists, he was fascinated by Oriental and exotic locales. In Morocco he found scenes and images that would feature heavily in his paintings for the rest of his life, not least the clash between wild animals and people, between the forces of nature and civilization – and it is often the former that are victorious in his pictures. In large, colourful paintings from the 1840s and 1850s, lions, tigers, and hunters on horseback fight to the death, but Delacroix himself had probably never seen such scenes in reality, nor even wild animals in their natural habitat. Instead, he used detailed studies of animals in zoos and of the people and material culture of North Africa to create his bloodcurdling pictures.

Text: Frithjof Bringager

From "Highlights. Art from Antiquity to 1945", Nasjonalmuseet 2014, ISBN 978-82-8154-088-0


Eugène Delacroix

Visual artist

Born 1798 in Charenton, death 1863 in Paris, Frankrike

Work info

Creation date:
Other titles:
Le lion dans son antre (FRE)
Løven i sin hule (NOR)
Lion et l'Homme mort (FRE)
Object type:
Materials and techniques:
Olje på lerret
  • Width: 65.7 cm
  • Height: 54.4 cm
  • Depth: 2.1 cm
Motif - type:
Gift from the Friends of the National Gallery 1918
Inventory no.:
Cataloguing level:
Single object
Owner and collection:
Nasjonalmuseet for kunst, arkitektur og design, The Fine Art Collections
Ivarsøy, Dag Andre