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Identification and Creation
Object Number
Griffin Protome from a Cauldron
Work Type
mid 7th century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe, Cyclades
Orientalizing period
Persistent Link
Level 3, Room 3400, Ancient Mediterranean and Middle Eastern Art, Ancient Greece in Black and Orange
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Physical Descriptions
Cast, lost-wax process
18.4 x 4.8 x 8.3 cm (7 1/4 x 1 7/8 x 3 1/4 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: ICP-MS/AAA data from sample, Bronze:
Cu, 90.81; Sn, 8.74; Pb, 0.13; Zn, 0.008; Fe, 0.16; Ni, 0.06; Ag, 0.03; Sb, less than 0.02; As, less than 0.10; Bi, 0.045; Co, 0.024; Au, less than 0.01; Cd, less than 0.001

J. Riederer

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Tracer
Alloy: Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin
Other Elements: lead, iron

K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The patina is dark green with brown, and there are areas of blue in the interior. There are three rivets and one circular hole in the flange at the base of its neck that would have been used to attach the object to a cauldron. Inside the base is a circular area (4 mm in diameter) of bright metal possibly from a sample site. A flattened rivet is visible on the exterior of the flange at the same location as the exposed bright metal in the interior; it is probably an ancient rivet rather than a modern one, as corrosion matches the other surfaces.

The griffin protome was hollow cast in one piece. There are two drip marks from the wax visible in the interior of the object, as well as some possible tool marks from spreading wax in the mold. Along the interior flange of the base, where the attachment of the protome would occur, is a band (8 to 12 mm wide) with a sharply defined internal edge. This band may be related to the original model used for casting. Inside the object around the back of the griffin’s neck are the remains of dark gray core material. The object decreases in thickness from 4.5 to 3.2 mm.

The incised decoration was made in the wax model; soft contours consistent with working in wax are visible. Furthermore, the incised lines of the curling lock on either side of the neck are smooth and continuous. There is no evidence of the small impressions from individual hammer marks that are often associated with metal chasing techniques. The decoration around the mouth and ears was probably incised freehand, since some of the incisions are wider than others. The scales of the griffin may have been made freehand in the wax instead of using a lunate punch, since the scales vary in size, angle, and sharpness of the inner curve.

Tracy Richardson (submitted 1999)

S. Morgenroth to Charles L. Morley; to Frederick M. Watkins, gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, 1963.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Frederick M. Watkins
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Inspired by Near Eastern vessels and monster imagery, Greek metal smiths of the seventh century BC produced numerous cauldrons of hammered metal that were adorned with the heads and necks of griffins, mostly for dedication in sanctuaries. The griffin protomes can be quite large and include the earliest Greek hollow-cast bronzes.

This griffin protome, originally attached as part of a set of four or six on the shoulder of a hammered bronze cauldron, is a hollow cast. The forehead supports a projecting peg that terminates in a biconical bead topped by a small pointed element; there is a small roundel beneath the bead. The head and neck exhibit a dense network of textured surface ornament consisting principally of small scales produced by a crescent-shaped punch. These surround a pair of incised curls that descend from the bases of the ears and unfold symmetrically on the lower part of the neck, ending in volute-shaped spirals. These incised locks exhibit groups of four transverse incised lines. The edges of the ears, the raised ridges around the upper and lower beak and the upper and lower jaws, the ridges over the eyes, and the projecting rounded ridges at the base of the ears are all marked by extremely fine, closely placed incised lines. The raised eyebrows above the eyes are emphasized by a pair of incised lines, although areas of corrosion and incrustation have obscured much of this surface ornament. Five rivets, of which four remain, originally fastened the protome to the shoulder of the cauldron.

David G. Mitten
Publication History

Ancient Art in American Private Collections, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1954), p. 30, no. 199, pl. 60.

J. L. Benson, "Unpublished Griffin Protomes in American Collections", Antike Kunst (1960), Vol. 3, pp. 58-70, appendix.

M. Del Chiaro, Greek Art in Private Collections of Southern California, exh. cat., University of California at Santa Barbara (Santa Barbara, CA, 1963), no. 2.

David Gordon Mitten, "Two Griffin Protomes", Fogg Art Museum Acquisitions, 1963, Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1964), 11-19, fig. 1.

David Gordon Mitten and Suzannah F. Doeringer, Master Bronzes from the Classical World, exh. cat., Verlag Philipp von Zabern (Mainz am Rhein, Germany, 1967), p. 73, no. 67.

Herbert D. Hoffmann, Collecting Greek Antiquities, C. N. Potter (New York, NY, 1971), p. 66, no. 57.

The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1973), p. 15-16, no. 1.

Hans-Volkmar Herrmann, Die Kessel der Orientalisierenden Zeit, Walter de Gruyter and Co. (Berlin, 1979), p. 113, pl. 46, G.77.

David Gordon Mitten and Amy Brauer, Dialogue with Antiquity, The Curatorial Achievement of George M. A. Hanfmann, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, MA, 1982), p. 13, no. 32.

Ulrich Gehrig, Die Greifenprotomen aus dem Heraion von Samos, In Kommission bei Habelt (Bonn, 2004), p. 58, pl. 5, no. 251.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, "Men of Bronze--Cups of Bronze: Bronze in the Iron Age", Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, ed. Susanne Ebbinghaus, Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2014), 146-69, pp. 158-59, fig. 7.7; cover ill.

Susanne Ebbinghaus, ed., Ancient Bronzes through a Modern Lens: Introductory Essays on the Study of Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes, Harvard Art Museum/Yale University Press (Cambridge, MA, 2014), Front and back covers, pp. 158-159, fig. 7.7

Exhibition History

Dialogue with Antiquity: The Curatorial Achievement of George M.A. Hanfmann, Fogg Art Museum, 05/07/1982 - 06/26/1982

Ancient Art in American Private Collections, Fogg Art Museum, 12/28/1954 - 02/15/1955

Master Bronzes from the Classical World, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 12/04/1967 - 01/23/1968; City Art Museum of St. Louis, St. Louis, 03/01/1968 - 04/13/1968; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, 05/08/1968 - 06/30/1968

The Age of Homer, University Museum, University of Philadelphia, 10/10/1969 - 03/14/1970

The Frederick M. Watkins Collection, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, 01/31/1973 - 03/14/1973

Permanent Galleries of the art of Anatolia, Levant and E. Mediterranean World, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 05/01/1995 - 02/01/1996

Re-View: S422 Ancient & Byzantine Art & Numismatics, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 04/12/2008 - 06/18/2011

32Q: 3400 Greek, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Ancient Bronzes

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