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Greek (probably made in Taranto, Italy)
Griffin Attachment
Fourth century BCE
Terracotta, gilding
H. 2 1/2 in. (6.2 cm) x W. 4 7/8 in. (11.9 cm)
81.59.1

 

Griffin Attachment

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.

Location: 2nd floor, gallery

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Cite As

"Griffin Attachment" (81.59.1). Bloomington: Indiana University Art Museum, 2014. http://www.indiana.edu/~iuam/online_modules/colors/objects.php?p=45.