Ewer in the shape of a griffin

Ewer in the shape of a griffin

Ewer in the shape of a griffin
Germany or Mosan
About 1120
Museum no. 1471-1870

This kind of vessel held water to wash hands in the home or at church. They were often made in the form of mythical animals, like this griffin, or exotic animals like lions or elephants that European artisans would never have seen in the flesh. The craftsmen probably copied patterns from luxury eastern imports, the most easily portable of which were Chinese, Iranian or Byzantine silks. The animals in these silks were already quite stylised and their transformation to three-dimensions sometimes had strange results. Instead of a fierce mythical creature that combines attributes of the lion and eagle, this griffin looks rather like a tame dog.