Mythological animals have a very rich history. Their traces remained until today and are to be found on different historical monuments, in literature and many tales, as well as on various artefacts from the past. There are plenty of legendary creatures and yet one of the most intriguing ones remains the lion-griffin. And here we have a piece from the famous Vasil Bojkov Collection of antique works that is adorned with such zoomorphic elements.
The piece in question represents a bronze platter with swiveling handle. As if trying to reaffirm the whole mysticism surrounding the platter, beginning from the lion-shaped attachments and the symbolism deeply rooted in them, there seem to be some other particularities. Like the tricky part in localizing this and other similar models with certainty. The exemplar from Vasil Bojkov Collection is a work of many questions. Some of them include: why choosing these lion-griffins as decorations? What do they indicate? Where was this bronze platter made? Finding answers to those questions will reveal a lot about the nature of the artefact.
So let’s start with the very obvious component – the very formation of this particular dish. It has a concave bottom and decorated base on the interior part. Thanks to the excellent condition in which it is found and restored, the piece can show us this interesting ornamentation on its bottom – a centering dot from which a chiseled rosette with two rows of petals emerges and spread towards the rest of the base. Small pointed leaves also contribute to the tiers. There is an attachment arc with a semicircular section. Its extremities are where the lion-griffins are placed. In essence, the griffin’s amalgamation of lion and eagle is used as a symbol of courage and also as a way to depict strength and leadership. Observing the facial features of the mythological animal it becomes apparent that they are stylized in the Achaemenid style. The heads are quite exaggerated with huge eyes and mouth wide open. Even the creature’s shoulder has minute decorative elements – a circular and an almond-shaped double contour ornament which are attributed to the Court workshops. Interestingly enough, this is something that reminds of the cloisonné work on Achaemenid jewels. The position of the bodies of the winged lions suggests they are ready to attack. Apart from those mystical animals, there are two other zoomorphic attachments modeled on the extremities of the omega-shaped handle – Persian or goitered gazelles.
Many of the assumed characteristics of the Vasil Bojkov Collection exemplar as well as on other similar ones make it difficult to attribute those artefacts to a specific region. There is, for instance, another set of four isolated elements belonging to the Loeb Collection in Munich Antikensammlungen that are suggested to be part of very similar platter. Some even attribute them to a single workshop.
However, Western Asia Minor and Persia remain as highly likely options in terms of clarifying the origin of Vasil Bojkov Collection piece and the ones similar to it.