Aug 7, 2006

The Griffin

The Griffin

c. 1480–90

Martin Schongauer

(German, c.1450–1491)


Sheet: 10.8 x 10.3 cm (4 1/4 x 4 1/16 in.); Mat Size: 49 x 36.2 cm (19 5/16 x 14 1/4 in.)

Dudley P. Allen Fund 1926.466

Catalogue raisonné: Lehrs V.337.93


Did you know?

Compare Schongauer's griffin with two CMA sculptures of the same subject, once placed as guardian figures in the portal of an Italian Romanesque Christian church (1928.861.1 and 1928.861.2).


According to medieval bestiaries (books of beasts), the griffin is an imaginary and immensely dangerous creature, believed to carry off humans and oxen. Usually depicted with the body of a lion and the head, wings, and claws of an eagle, the griffin symbolizes both courage and vigilance. Its dual nature also signifies that of Christ himself: divine (bird) and human (animal). Martin Schongauer's griffin is an unusual combination of an eagle and an ox—see the back hoofed paws—departing from the traditional representation of this animal as part eagle and part lion. With a few bold strokes of the burin, Schongauer rendered in a naturalistic way the shape and texture of the feathers and fur of this fabled beast.

See also
PR - Engraving
Type of artwork: 
Credit line: 
Dudley P. Allen Fund

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