Relief with the head of a griffin

Early Imperial Period
about A.D. 51–52 or later

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 237.


Height: 24 cm (9 7/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, rough Greek from the northern islands or western Asia Minor

Not On View


The Ancient World



The relief is broken on all edges, and the surfaces are rather worn.
This head is of the type of griffin most often found in imperial architectural carving and, later, on the ends of large sarcophagi.
Since the head was drawn by Pierre Jacques of Rheims with the Signifer fragment (MFA 59.336) in the Piazza Sciarra in 1577, it probably also derived from the same monument, perhaps the Arch of Claudius.


1562, probably excavated at the Piazza di Sciarra, Rome; 1576, recorded at the Piazza di Sciarra by Pierre Jacques [see note 1] and later dispersed [see note 2]. Possibly in a British private collection (Duke of Buccleuch?) [see note 3]. 1952, sold by Spink and Son, London, to Peter Wilson of Sotheby’s, London [see note 4]. 1959, sold by J. J. Klejman (dealer; b. 1906 – d. 1995), New York, to Cornelius C. Vermeule, III (b. 1925 – d. 2008), Boston; 1959, sold by Cornelius Vermeule to the MFA for $1275 [see note 5]. (Accession Date: June 9, 1959)

[1] Salomon Reinach, L’album de Pierre Jacques, Sculpteur de Reims, Dessiné à Rome de 1572 à 1577 (Paris, 1902), pl. 29. On the history of excavations at this site, see A. A. Barrett, “Claudius’ British Victory Arch in Rome,” Britannia 22 (1991), pp. 1-19, esp. pp. 4-5.

[2] According to the account of Flaminio Vacca, many of the reliefs found were sold to Giovanni Giorgio Cesarini, and the rest (some 136 carts full) were purchased by Vacca himself. See “Notes on Roman Historical Sculptures,” Papers of the British School at Rome 3 (1906), pp. 220-221, which suggests that the sculptures drawn by Jacques “may not have been acquired by the Cesarini.”

[3] See C. C. Vermeule and M. B. Comstock, Sculpture in Stone (MFA Boston, 1976), p. 147, cat. no. 237. According to Cornelius Vermeule at the time of the acquisition, he had first seen the relief in London in 1952 and it was "from a British country house."

[4] According to Cornelius Vermeule at the time of the sculpture's acquisition.

[5] This was the price paid for MFA accession nos. 59.336 and 59.337.

Credit Line

Charles Amos Cummings Bequest Fund