The lion, which stands on all four legs with its tail held high, gazes directly in front. In its half-open mouth an incised zigzag line indicates the teeth, while the tongue is slightly protruding. Two incised circles denote the eyes and an undulating line the eyebrows. The ears are modelled as two relief circles. The most characteristic feature of the feline is its luxuriant mane, rendered by incised wavy lines. Oblique incisions indicate the ribs.
On the animal’s chest is an irregular notch for inserting the key. An added bow, which locks when the key is turned, curves from the back of the lion’s neck to near its tail.
Although the existence of padlocks in Roman and Byzantine times is known from iconographic and textual sources, very few specimens have survived, and indeed intact like the one in the Canellopoulos Museum. Given that padlocks were easily carried and used widely in everyday life, it is difficult to locate the workshops in which they were produced. Their dating also presents problems, as their function remained unchanged for centuries. Their form varies: some are of simple aniconic shapes and others are zoomorphic, such as the example here, or even anthropomorphic. Padlocks have been found in excavations (Pergamon: Gaitzsch 2005, 50-51, fig. 71,1; Corinth: Davidson 1952, 139, pl. 71, no. 1005; Dinogetia: Stefan 1967, 78, fig. 41,10), but most of those known are in private collections and museums (cf. Vikan 1980, 6. Fleischer 1996, 90, no. 63).
Despite the abstract treatment of the features on the head and the mane, the lion on this padlock is distinguished by vitality, expressiveness and elements of plasticity. Its comparison with later padlocks from Corinth and Pergamon (see above), as well as with other representations of lions not on padlocks, leads to a date in the Late Roman or the Early Byzantine period.