Silk fragment with a griffin

Silk fragment with a griffin

Silk fragment with a griffin
Byzantine Empire
900–1100
Museum no. 764-1893

The griffin has the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle and was seen as a protector from evil. The motif possibly originated in Achaemenid Iran, though it was also used in Byzantine art. As with the senmurv, this exotic creature travelled to Western Europe on silks. Here they captured the local imagination. The Western craftsmen sometimes mixed the creatures' characteristics, and as a result the beasts took on a more cartoonish appearance. On this textile fragment, only the griffin's head remains, though the trunk of an elephant is just visible below it, indicating it was part of an animal combat scene.