|modified for this posting from a more detailed engraving by Wenceslas Hollar, 1600s|
The Pompeians used the griffin in their murals, but this mythical creature goes back thousands of years, to India, Assyria and Persia.
I'm starting the posting with this 17th-century engraving because it's true to what a griffin should look like. The creature is basically the combination of an eagle and a lion. The head and front of the body — including the front legs and wings — are represented by an eagle. In addition, the eagle head features long ears that are sometimes feathered. The rest of the body belongs to a lion. Altogether, the creature symbolizes strength and wisdom. Because the griffin traditionally guards treasure, he also symbolizes vengeance; I think he's perfect for my home security.
|Mark D. Ruffner, 2014|
The griffin is going to be at the end of the entablature,
so that he can survey the entire structure.
I begin the painting by putting down a flat color, either a middle tone or the prevailing color. Note that I am conscious of making the griffin's base equal to the capital's cap, and that together they form a square. I have two goals here — first, to have elements align so that as the composition becomes more and more complex, the eye unconsciously recognizes order. And second, though the griffin rests atop the entablature, there is a sense that he's also atop a column, not unlike the winged lion of Venice, below.
Here's the finished griffin. His front legs are from a lion and he doesn't look particularly vengeful, but I'm confident that he'll still be an effective guardian.
Next week we'll start working inside those auburn panels, and the room will take a big step towards looking more Pompeian!