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Medieval Treasures from Hildesheim

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Panel with a Griffin

Date:
1250–1300
Geography:
Made in Greece or the Balkans (possibly)
Culture:
Byzantine
Medium:
Marble
Dimensions:
Overall: 23 1/2 x 20 1/2 x 2 9/16 in. (59.7 x 52.1 x 6.5 cm) weight: 91lb. (41.3kg)
Classification:
Sculpture-Stone
Credit Line:
Purchase, Rogers Fund and Jeannette and Jonathan Rosen Gift, 2000
Accession Number:
2000.81
  • Description

    This commanding image of a griffin with its head turned and its wing flexed is an exceptionally fine example of monumental stone carving of the Late Byzantine, or Palaiologan, era. The panel, worked in low relief, resembles an elaborate Byzantine silk in its arrangement of the creature within a roundel. Small Greek crosses at the midpoint of the border on all four sides identify it as having been made for Christian use. Christians of this era still considered the mythical griffins to be guardian figures, often of the dead, and symbols of power and authority, thanks in part to their legendary role in the life of Alexander the Great.

    Possibly, the panel was once part of a tomb similar to those known from northern Greece that were carved in a style influential in Serbia and the Balkans. On tombs griffins may have meant both to protect the people buried within and to symbolize their royal lineage. The fleurs-de-lis on the griffin's shoulder and haunch typify the era's complex cultural interplay, as similar motifs are found in contemporary Islamic and Crusader depictions of animals.

  • Provenance

    [ Ariadne Galleries, New York (sold 2000)]

  • See also
    What
    Where
    When
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
472849

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