That splendid fictional cynic Captain Edmund Blackadder once remarked that one of the greatest coups in theatrical history occurred when the manager of the Roman coliseum thought of putting the Christians and the lions on the same bill. That coup was not just an innovative approach to popular entertainment. It was also the source of some remarkable erotic art.

In a book everyone ought to own, Hans-Jürgen Döpp and Joe Thomas’s 1000 Erotic Works of Genius I encountered the following remarkable painting, “Victory of Faith” (1891) by Irish painter George (or St. George, sources vary) Hare (1857-1933):

victory of faith

High-resolution version: ( 1680×1050 )

Two about-to-become martyrs sleep peacefully in a rather chaste-looking embrace. In the background, the lion who is the instrument of their soon-to-be martyrdom glowers hungrily.

lion in the shadows

I would suppose that the interest of a healthy, well-adjusted lion in our two heroines would more likely be gustatory that sexual, though experience has taught me that you never really know about theater people.

George or St. George Hare is obscure enough a painter that I couldn’t even find a Wikipedia entry on him. The original of this painting hangs in the National Gallery of Victoria Melbourne. One internet commenter I googled, quoting another source, remarks that “…the depiction of naked women in chains seemed to hold a SPECIAL INTEREST (my caps) for Hare, and he returned to this subject frequently.”

Yes. I see we are now in territory where we’ve been before.