Lee Plaza Hotel lion progress

Last shot for now, the clay will need to firm up somewhat before I do more to it, still pretty sticky and soft since I just opened the packages yesterday.

It took exactly 100# of clay, I have about one softball sized piece left of the packages I opened for this model.

lee plaza lion 3

lee plaza lion 3

Lee Plaza Hotel Lion

Now that I have the order of clay at hand that I purchased last week, I started my model of the Detroit Lee Plaza lion.

So far after about 3-1/2 hours, I am at this point in my roughing out process:

Lee Plaza lion

Lee Plaza lion

Winged Lion and Angel

Now mind you, I really like this ancient Roman carved stone frieze sculpture a lot, so I made my own.


While the few references to this have called it a “griffin” the head is not that of a bird as a griffin requires to be a griffin, but is more of the head of a lion. This is actually more properly called a winged lion (or lioness as it’s sans the mane)

It is rich in symbolism, the interesting part is the winged figure is holding a vase and a plate, the vase is discharging a liquid which I will guess was probably meant to be wine. So the wine or liquid is being poured onto a plate and the lion’s paw is on the plate which indicates something, what that may be is anyone’s guess. Could it mean the lion is helping to hold the plate, indicating “no” or “thats enough”?

The winged figure can be seen to have morphed from leaves and vines, this is a real common motif going way back obviously. The Greek and Roman gods were able to “call up” helpers of sorts from the dust of the earth, they either took partial animal form or partial human form like this figure to come and assist in various ways.

The winged lion is symbolic of strength, courage, and is a guardian and protector.

A very faint glimmer of light appears under the angel’s right arm below the elbow, it suggests the right arm is as well as the lion’s foreground wingtip- partially carved in the full round. Possibly the lion’s foreground rear leg is also carved full round in a portion of it.

The full round carving makes these areas come alive with 3D detail, but it also makes them very fragile, which is one reason why most of these ancient Greek and Roman architectural carvings are missing heads, arms, legs and many details as a general rule, all broken away and lost.

The fact this sculpture is made from hand carved stone with this detail is extraordinary, since unlike clay, if when carving stone the artist doesn’t do it right, or the design is “off”, stone that has been removed can’t simply be put back on to start again. With clay, if the artist doesn’t like the proportions, or some detail etc., they can simply apply fresh clay back on or cut away and re-do, not so with stone! it has to be completely right the first time because there is no second chance beyond modifying the design to something else, or starting on a new blank slab of stone.

I have seen an old plaster statue catalogue showing a plaster cast of this sculpture for sale around 1910 for $25, but it was almost four feet wide and two feet high, my guess is life sized. This design is one I might work on but in a considerably smaller scale than four feet! I shall need more pictures, especially from the side but it seems pictures of this sculpture are rare for some reason. I am researching where exactly this is located, it may be a fragment in a museum for all I know.