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.
[ Ariadne Galleries, New York (sold 2000)]
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Eisenberg, Jerome M. "The New Byzantine Galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art." Minerva 12, no. 3 (2001). pp. 26-28, fig. 18.
Evans, Helen C., Melanie Holcomb, and Robert Hallman. "The Arts of Byzantium." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, n.s., 58, no. 4 (Spring 2001). pp. 58-59.
Evans, Helen C., ed. Byzantium: Faith and Power (1261-1557). New York, New Haven, and London: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004. no. 58, pp. 112-113.
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Barnet, Peter. "Recent Acquisitions (1999-2008) of Medieval Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Cloisters, New York: Supplement." The Burlington Magazine 150, no. 1268 (November 2008). p. 797, fig. XIII.
Barnet, Peter. "Medieval Europe." In Philippe de Montebello and The Metropolitan Museum of Art: 1977–2008, edited by James R. Houghton. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2009. p. 25.