06 August 2011

Scythian griffin

I didn't even have Art 101 in college, so I'm the first to admit that my knowledge base is minimal.  If someone had shown me this sculpture as an unknown, I would have pegged it as being modern art.  Imagine my surprise to discover that it dates from the 4th century BC:
Scythian Griffin holding a stag head in its beak.
From Pazyryk, Russian Altai mountains, 4th century B.C.
Saint Petersburg, State Hermitage Museum.
Found at petrus.agricola's Flickr photostream, via Merisoniom.


  1. Minimal knowledge of art history notwithstanding, your comment points to one of the foundations of "modern art". Many of those considered to be 'modern artists' strove throughout their careers to find a way to somehow express the essence captured by 'primitive' art (viz. Gauguin in Tahiti). Picasso was fascinated by ancient and African tribal masks, often wearing them himself and posing for photos.

  2. You are right, it looks very modern! I think you can attribute this to some "cartoon-like" features, like the large eyes and curly hair/feathers. Truly incredible and wonderful that it's from so long ago It's really beautiful, thanks for posting!

  3. Way back in 1961 Life Magazine published a huge book (11"X14")called The Epic of Man. My grandparents gave me a copy for my birthday. I was six. The text was way over my head, but the pictures fascinated me. The book had chapters on almost every culture around the world from paleolithic through the neolithic and well into the iron age. The chapters on the Mycenians, Ertuscans and Sythians especially enchanted me.
    BTW: The Sythians were geniuses at metalwork and textile art as well. Check out these pictures:

  4. Thanks,
    This is beautiful. Have added to my flickr faves. Reminds me of this amazing Sumerian work from 2500 B.C. A lion-headed eagle grasping to stags. Blows my mind: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tommyajohansson/2778973410/

  5. @Fester, some of the items at your link are just jaw-dropping. I was particularly fascinated by the nursing-animal figurines. And the gorgeous horses. They seemed to be particularly fond of portraying animals--or fantastic creatures--biting other animals or fantastic creatures. What's that theme about, I wonder?

    @Steve--your link goes to the first page of that Flickr account, and it's just photos of owls and eagles (real ones). Do you have a link that goes directly to the Sumerian work?

    Gee, I was an art history major in college, and they never showed us any of this stuff. Maybe I didn't take the right courses.

    --Swift Loris

  6. Swift, Steve's link works for me to a Sumerian bas-relief. Did you include the part of his link after the second backslash?

  7. I love the Scytho-Sarmatian zoomorphic style. Thanks for the link, Fester!

  8. @M'Stan--I think you're asking whether I got everything after the third backslash, no? Answer is no--all that appeared of the link was (after the second backslash) "tommyajohan." I copied that, and when I pasted it into the address bar, it became "tommyajohansson." Not sure what happened to the numbers; I couldn't see them here, and apparently couldn't copy them either.

    @Steve--thanks. That's really spectacular.

    @Lady Aritê gunê Akasa--"Zoomorphic"--le mot juste, thank you!

    --Swift Loris

  9. That is so cool! There must be 10,000 Bulgarian folksongs that also share some of this, you can hear them anytime. Just search words like paidushko or
    pravo. So yes, we are still here.


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