Dying Lion Mousepad

I saw the best and worst of art this weekend.  The best was a traveling exhibit  titled, “Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum” that is winding up its three month stay at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (Their website is the source of these images).

The worst was the visit to the gift shop at the end of the exhibit–the item pictured here was one of the final carvings in the exhibit.

(If you want to read a review that mirrors my experience with this exhibit (not the gift shop), check out Michael Kimmelman’s review of this exhibit when it was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 2005.  He described the dying lion this way:

“The lion, an arrow buried in its back, blood pouring from its mouth as it strains to stay upright, is one of the most sublime and moving images in all ancient art, so full of pathos, in fact, that you may wonder whether the Assyrians, who made a sport of killing lions, actually sympathized with their victims.”

Mr. Kimmelman went on to say that scholars of this period would probably not subscribe to the sympathy line, but it is hard to stand in front of this piece, particularly after seeing monumental carved reliefs filled with narratives of brutality and revenge and war, and not feel  that this small piece is the only one that communicates suffering.  I stood in front of it amazed at the feeling it elicited from me.

Then,  I took a few steps away from this piece to the exit and into the gift shop.

For 18 dollars, I could have a mousepad of this dying lion.  Not a postcard, a mousepad.  I could run my mouse over this suffering lion day in and day out while checking the weather, reading the news of the day, downloading photos–day in and day out that is, until I can find a picture of my dying father to take its place.

Seriously, art curator business exhibit people—

A mousepad?

©Pat Coakley 2008

9 comments on “Dying Lion Mousepad”

  1. Happy New Year, Pat! So the British Museum let its Assyrian art works go travelling. It’s funny. At the BM the Egyptian collections get a lot of praise, as do the Elgin Marbles and the famous remains of a man preserved by a bog. Most people forget how detailed the Assyrian friezes are and overlook them in favour of the mummies. This lion is beautiful, in spite of the fact that he represents such negative human traits (read: murderous). The irony you found in the possibility of inflicting yet more loss of integrity on this proud animal via a mouse mat is incredibly thought-provoking. Have I ever told you about the mouse mats I saw once in Rome? They each bore Pope John Paul II’s image (this was pre-Benedict). I’m sure a great many people bought them, but to me, running a mouse over any religious leader’s face is the height of disrespect.

  2. what a fascinating take on both the art and the ideas of ‘licensed product’. you’d hafta be nearly asleep not to notice what yur doing at home w/one of those mousepads. you’d hafta be proposing mass hypnotism to be the one who said ‘lets make it into a mousepad!’ at the product development meeting, you’d hafta be pretty much done for if you didnt notice that strange choice i mean, what, they coulda used it for a pillowcase as well ha ha lemme sleep on it or a pendant of gold lemme wear it around my neck.
    i could go on ha ha but i wont
    if i was at that meeting i woulda said ‘lets use this image as a giclee print with the title of the exhibition and a little caption at the bottom that says “Think About It”

  3. That lion makes my heart hurt. The thought of running my mouse over it does indeed make me wonder about what should & should not be licensed. You have also solidified my resolve to get myself to a museum soon.

  4. Epic, that is so interesting about the British Museum. This exhibit has been traveling for at least three years and I suspect is on its way back to England now after finishing in Boston. It totally surprised me as I was not thinking I’d be so taken with it. It was a spectacular exhibit and as if you needed any more reasons to mourn the Iraq war, from the “lost art” perspective it is heartbreaking.
    Tipota, I love your thoughts on this! “Think about it”…oh, my, what I wouldn’t give to have seen this image and those words on the exhibition promotional materials. My only conclusion was that the person who said this was OK to do was one who had managed to avoid suffering in his or her own life. I can’t imagine anyone with any experience whatsoever, thinking this was a good choice.

    Conni, Oh, I know. It totally surprised me, coming at the end as it did. Oh, yes, to going to a museum soon. They are a life’s blood to me. No kidding. If I am in the pits, I can rescue myself by going.

  5. I remember once seeing a mousepad of the painting Starry Night. I felt the exact same way . . .

  6. mousepad with dying lion? come on people. :D whats next? cups with tigers eating deers..

  7. As is often the case with insipid and often insulting commercials, I’m also staggered by the notion that a committee, or a board, or some partnership arrangement slammed the gavel down on that particular idea and said ” it’s a go”. Where does this come from.

    This from a woman who, as a 5 year old, took her stuffed animals off the bedroom window sill in the winter and put them under the blanket to keep them “warm.”

    Drop the “m ” and see what that word spells…..yeah, see?

    Sharp on the part of your sensitivity meter to even notice the ludicrous contrast.

  8. Tysdaddy, the starry night one would not have trip wired this marketing excess to me. I guess I can tolerate running over a gorgeous landscape but not a suffering animal.

    Palpinao: “tigers eating deers” made me think of a droll comment made by a Museum of Natural History museum employee in New York City. There was a long line of school children waiting to see an IMAX movie about the Serengeti. I stopped the guard and asked him if he thought the movie was worth waiting to see it with a gazzillion school kids. He looked bored. Then, said,”It’s the usual thing: lions eating tigers.”

    Oh, Bonnie, taking your stuffed animals off the bedroom window sill and putting them under the blanket?? Aw.
    No, you’d definitely not be a candidate for the dying lion mousepad, I am proud to say.

  9. thats just it pat. thats just it.

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