"I was just reading Doctored Evidence and Brunetti was commenting on the lions at the Arsenale, wondering whether the men who carved them ever saw a real one. Are the lions ‘funny’ looking? "
The answer is yes!, There are four lions outside the entrance to the Arsenale, and one of them in particular is pretty goofy looking. The entrance is guarded by eight statues of pagan gods with the lions lounging beside them.
This is the goofy one - such a worried expression on his face! I love him. He looks straight out of cartoons. Despite his Disney appearance, he's the oldest of the bunch, a Greek sculpture dating back to the 6th century BC. The Venetians stole him from island of Delos.
This one sits to the left of the cartoon lion.
And this one sits alone is to the left of the entrance. He came from the port of Piraeus in Athens where he might have been part of a fountain,and there's carved graffiti on him: runic inscriptions left by Scandinavian soldiers who were fighting in Greece in the 11th century. Supposedly translators have concluded that the graffiti is an archaic equivalent of "Kilroy Was Here."
Another view of the graffiti lion:
Here's the cartoon lion under scaffolding, taken in 2007 when there was restoration work going on at the entrance.
I didn't have a photo of the fourth and smallest lion but I found one on Wikipedia Commons along with a 19th century Carlo Naya photograph of the Arsenale entrance. Some trivia about this entrance: the four bronze horses that are now inside the Basilica di San Marco were originally placed here at the Arsenale after the Venetians hauled them home from Constantinople but a few decades later, they decided to move them to the loggia of the Basilica.