Terracotta funerary urn

Hellenistic, probably made in Athens about 300 BC
From Greece

Vessel with painted and gilded bull-griffin protomes

This elaborately decorated vase was used as a cinerary urn (container for the cremated remains of the dead). When it was found it still contained cremated bones, fragments of a linen textile in which the bones had perhaps been wrapped, two silver Athenian coins (obols), and a terracotta figure of a siren. The coins recall the payment needed for the deceased to be ferried across the River Styx by the boat-man Charon. The siren is shown in an attitude of mourning, and was therefore an appropriate offering to accompany the dead.

The lid of the vessel is crowned with a miniature vase, while around the shoulder are four winged bull-griffin protomes. This hybrid monster was not a Greek creation: the motif has been borrowed from the contemporary art of Achaemenid Persia. The addition of paint and gilding must originally have created a rich polychrome effect.

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Height: 16.000 inches

Museum number

GR 1842.7-28.842 (Terracotta C 12)


Burgon Collection


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