This mold-made and gilded terracotta griffin likely served as a decorative attachment for a wooden sarcophagus. Such décor flourished in the south Italian city of Taranto during the late Classical and early Hellenistic periods.
After the terracotta figure was fashioned, it was covered with a layer of gold, which was applied using an adhesive such as egg-whites. By gilding terracotta, craftsmen were able to provide the appearance of solid gold while conserving the amount of the metal employed. The gilded metal allows for a greater radiance than paints made from organic materials, and since gold does not tarnish, it could be expected to maintain its luster without degrading.
The use of gilded wares in a funerary context may provide a glimpse into the social status of the deceased. Although still considered luxury items, gilt terracottas would have been accessible to a wider audience than their solid gold counterparts.