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Arthur Boyd

Lion's Head on Fire and Nebuchadnezzar eating grass, 1968

Price: $160,000


Catalogue number: 1

oil on canvas

175.00 x 183.00

signed lower left


Arthur Boyd, London;
Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 1970;
Private collection, Melbourne; thence by descent;
Menzies, Sydney, 22 March 2012, lot 68;
Charles Nodrum Gallery, Melbourne, 2014;
Private Collection, Melbourne, since then


An exhibition of recent works by Arthur Boyd, Bonython Galleries, Sydney, 1968; and at Australian Galleries, Melbourne, 25 June - 5 July 1968, no 55 (as Nebuchadnezzar Eating Grass on a Starry Night);
Arthur Boyd: Recent Paintings, Arthur Tooth & Sons, London, 21 October - 8 November 1969, no. 1; 
On loan to Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria, c. 2014-2022

Literature & references:

T.S.R. Boase, Nebuchadnezzar - 34 Paintings and 18 Drawings by Arthur Boyd, Thames and Hudson, 1972, illus plate 36, p 94-95 (source of all quotations below).


The biblical story of Nebuchadnezzar as recorded in the book of Daniel seems to have conflated two separate events: first, the emperor's overbearing pride for which he was punished with a catastrophic fall not just from grace and power, but from membership of the human species: "he was driven from men and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven" - and Boyd often depicts him on all fours with "hairs like eagles' feathers and nails like birds' claws” but also being chased by lions and birds, walking on five legs, buried in sand, protecting his (long lost) gold, soaked by rain, on fire and blind. In each case the physical symbolising the psychological. But after this he recovers: "I lifted up mine eyes unto heaven and mine understanding returned... and excellent majesty was added unto me" - as if participating in the ancient process of prophets abandoning the everyday life for the rigours of fasting, solitude and meditating before returning to that world better prepared for the future.
In spite of being the subject of a specific scholarly monograph, the Nebuchadnezzar series has never gathered the accolades of, say, the Bride or Shoalhaven paintings and I've never quite understood why. One option would be its specific origin in the Bible, which would run counter to the overriding secular tenor of Australian art. To those who do feel this way I can only suggest a more neutral approach. Try seeing it as a massive existential crisis expressed in interwoven themes - from which the protagonist succeeds in escaping - but only just. In this work we see Nebuchadnezzar huddled in a corner trying to hide from a lion swooping down. Given the interchanging roles, we might see the lion as any one of them: as the bringer of retribution; as one of the friendly ones with whom Daniel spent a comfortable week; or as the fire that's come to burn up Nebuchadnezzar's arrogance and hence to lead him back into the human world where his gifts as an impressive political leader can once more be put to proper use. C.N.

View artwork in Exhibition

Exhibition Catalogue

Lion's Head on Fire and Nebuchadnezzar eating grass

Arthur Boyd


oil on canvas, 175.00 x 183.00

Price: $160,000

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(Untitled - Catani Arch, St Kilda)

Sidney Nolan


oil on hessian on board, 37.50 x 45.50


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Mist on the Bay

Yvonne Audette

1978 - 1979

oil on board, 86.00 x 101.00

Price: $120,000

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Floating World

David Aspden


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Little River

Fred Williams


oil on board, 106.00 x 91.40

Price: $380,000

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Lilydale Landscape

Fred Williams

c. 1960

oil on board, 46.00 x 61.00

Price: $150,000

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Structure in Landscape

Roger Kemp

c. 1935

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Price: $27,500

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The Shriek of a Cockatoo

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Price: $12,000

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Fields at Eltham

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c. 1940 - 1949

oil on board
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oil on board, 30.00 x 40.00

Price: $7,700

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Mount Nebo no 2

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1931 - 1932

oil on board, 31.00 x 41.00

Price: $6,600

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Marshalling Yards V

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Price: $20,000

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(Untitled - Urban Panorama)

Michael Shannon

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oil on canvas
, 120.00 x 150.00

Price: $35,000

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The Armoured Car

Gareth Sansom

1966 - 1967

acrylic & collage on Masonite, 116.00 x 90.00

Price: $17,500

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Les sons et les parfums tournent dans l'air du soir (Sounds and scents move in the evening air)

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Price: $55,000

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Service Road

Virginia Coventry

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6 silver gelatin photographs (23.8 x 30.5cm ea), 23.80 x 30.50

Price: $1,200

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Price: $1,650

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, 79.00 x 56.50


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Dreaming Landscape

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Price: $990

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James Gleeson


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Price: $60,000

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Anne Summers - God's Police Doll

Keith Looby


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, 251.00 x 192.00


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(Untitled - Man holding rock)

Peter Booth


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(Untitled - Standing Man)

Peter Booth


oil pastel on paper, 11.50 x 7.50

Price: $2,750

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(Untitled - Crawling Man)

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Price: $2,750

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, 120.00 x 183.00

Price: $12,500

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Since its establishment in 1984, the Charles Nodrum Gallery’s exhibition program embraces a diversity of media and styles - from painting, sculpture & works on paper to graphics and photography; from figurative, geometric, gestural, surrealist & social comment to installation & conceptually based work.