The city of Venice uses the winged lion as its symbol. The winged lion is also a symbol of St. Mark, and it’s not by coincidence that St. Mark is also the patron saint of the Venice. There is a power in these old symbols. The mere fact that you find symbols of this nature throughout the ancient world, and often modeled very similarly gives credence to the notion that they believed these symbols had an energetic power also.
In many ways this idea of energy is like that of the Chinese concepts found in Taoism and Feng Shui. In both of these philosophical ideas, objects and pictures can obtain and even hold energy. These objects, such as our wall relief here, influence the attractive or disagreeable energies surrounding us in our everyday environment. It’s believed that using these objects as art can help us in subtle ways.
For instance, a popular artistic expression of a winged lion shows the lion resting his paw on the Motto of Venice. Naturally, being Venice, the motto is in Latin and the ancient carvers may or may not have known what they were writing. However, when carving out the motto they knew they only had so much space in which to carve the phrase “Pax tibi, Marce, Evangelista meus. Hic requiescet corpus tuum” .
That’s quite a bit of carving to place in a relatively small area without any errors. So, they used a sort of shorthand to get the whole phrase to fit. These artisans preferred the much shortened. “Pax – Evan, Tibi – Geli, Mar – Sta, Ce – Meus”. Obviously this version is a great deal easier to spell and carve. The phrase, in sum, means “Peace to you, Mark, my Evangelist. Here your body shall rest.”
The lion has a grotesque even a gargoylish expression that gives the work an expressive power of suggestion. These carved features often enhanced seals and heraldic carvings to motivate a sense of fear and foreboding in us. It is still believed in many areas of the world today that these grotesque and macabre features are useful in frightening away the evil spirits that wish us ill will. What better location therefore, than to place it on a seal of a powerful empire?
We are then drawn to the large claws surrounding the book on which the famous motto is carefully carved . At once this message maintains both a foreboding warning of power and fear to the enemies of the owner of the seal and delivers a message of hope of protection to that owner. A message establishing that St. Mark is still present and gentle people have nothing to fear.
The idea is to enhance that message through the visual use of various artistic filters. The shadows on this piece play a crucial role in establishing the historical and powerful feel of the carving. The deepening shadows and lighting enhance the effect of the lion as both a gargoyle and protector. Various brown filters are then applied to allow for the stone and it’s all-important texture to suggest its permanent nature as a protective seal against evil.
These two elements drawn together allow for the energy of the piece to fully flow and provide the emotional response that makes owning the work so fulfilling. All you need to do is display it.