Daniel in the Lions' Den

Henry Ossawa Tanner, Daniel in the Lions' Den, 1907-1918. Oil on paper mounted on canvas,  Los Angeles Country Museum of Art, Los Angeles.

Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859–1937) was the first African American painter to receive international recognition, exhibiting a version of this work in the renowned 1896 Paris Salon. As a young artist, he was the only black student at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, where he met Rodman Wanamaker, the department-store magnate. Wanamaker was so impressed with Tanner’s biblical paintings that he arranged for the artist to travel to Palestine for inspiration. In this work, Daniel must survive a night in a den of lions as punishment for refusing to pray to King Darius of Persia. The quiet spirituality of the scene overrides the inherent drama of the narrative. Tanner achieves this calm serenity with the use of moonlight through an upper window. The light highlights Daniel’s crossed arms, a sign of submission, and the massive head of the nearest lion. Daniel’s calm demeanor emphasizes his spiritual resolve.


Henry Ossawa Tanner, Daniel in the Lion’s Den, 1907–18. Oil on paper mounted on canvas, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, California.

The king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire at its peak, from 550-486 B.C.E. His decree to continue the rebuilding of the Temple appears in Ezra 6.

A written, spoken, or recorded story.

Another name often used for the area of Israel and Judah, derived from the Latin term for the Roman province of Palaestina; ultimately, the name derives from the name of the Philistine people.

placing oneself under the authority or control of another

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