This marble disk, carved in the form of a lion’s head, would have functioned as an ornate waterspout in a fountain or nymphaeum (fountain with architectural settings for statuary) of a Roman House. The lion’s features are now worn from centuries of weathering, and the calcium deposits around the mouth indicate a long period of use in antiquity. The back of the carved waterspout has been hollowed out into a funnel shape, which would have allowed a lead pipe (now lost) to stream water through the lion’s open mouth. Embellishments such as this were popular in domestic gardens during the Roman era. In antiquity water displays were common in domestic settings — the sound of flowing water and the backdrop of a garden would have created a luxurious setting for entertaining guests.
Ridgway, Brunilde Sismondo. “Classical Sculpture”. Providence: Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design,1972.