Bronze ship finial in the form of a mastiff with a griffin

Roman period, 2nd-4th century A.D.
H. 14 cm (5 33⁄64 in)

Ars Antiqua AG, Lucerne, 1971
Private collection, Switzerland, from the above

E. Simon e.a.
Dei e Uomini, Roma 1997, 53

Musée d'art et d'histoire, Geneva, 2002 until 2017

Hollow cast in the form of a mastiff's head, the canine with tufted triangular ears, a broad nose, the nostrils indented, small recessed eyes with hollow pupils and heavy lids beneath thick brows, framed by curly modeled tuft around the face, the open mouth showing sharp teeth with four dangerous canines, surmounted by the head of a griffin 

This object likely formed a decorative apparatus of a ship - it was most probably fixed at the end of a prominent horizontal wooden beam, with the purpose of adverting danger and providing safe passage through treacherous waters. The monstruous character of the animal represented with the head of a mastiff surmounted by a griffin embodied strength and ferocity and held a protectiv function.

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