Rare and early limestone stele with floral motifs, bird (peacock?) and griffin. This griffin has no wings and is, therefore, related to the Minoic griffin as depicted on the fresco in the Throne room of the palace of Knossos (15th cent BC). In twelfth- and thirteenth-century northern Italy, it was customary to decorate the façade of buildings (e.g. Cathedral of Parma) with stelae or with carved roundels (paterae) that were adorned with animals and floral motifs. The majority of the designs derive from Byzantine, Islamic and Coptic decorative arts. Certain motifs must have had symbolic meaning beyond their decorative function: thus ‘griffin and peacock’ could symbolize ‘evil and beauty’ (or ‘violence and defencelessness’ or ‘bad and good’).
Similar decorative elements can be found in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest (Limestone roundel with 2 doves, inventory number 1460) and the Detroit Institute of Arts (limestone roundel with bird attacking rabbit). Although these two references are roundels and not stelae, it is interesting to notice that the pattern on the decorative frame of the roundels is exactly the same as that of our stele. This pattern consists of rectangular elements of which the elevated part is alternatively directed towards the outside and the inside of the central motif.
Wear consistent with the age, otherwise excellent condition. Limestone on metal stand. Dimensions (without stand): 60x27x5cm
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