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Oak Furniture and the late 1800’s Winged Griffin…

February 15, 2013

During the annual Shady Lawn Antiques Winter Break, I restored a late 1800’s “Winged Griffin Oak Buffet.”  The easy thing to do would be to stop the description there and just show some pictures…

So here is the finished Winged Griffin Oak Buffet…015 (2)

but here is the problem…

People in the antiques trade know (and can visualize) what you mean when you say ‘Winged Griffin”.  They think of a lion with wings…

However sources such as Wikipedia – I’m not writing a thesis or term paper so Wikipedia seems like a good enough source to me – describe a Griffin differently.  They say that a Griffin is a “legendary creature with the body and tail and back legs of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle and an eagle’s feet as its front feet.”

Clearly the late 1800’s furniture builders were not bound to any design conventions and they could create any mythical figure that they desired.  In this case the figure was basically a lion with wings.  Furniture design variations of the lion with wings Griffin out number the lion body; eagle head, feet, and wings Griffin by at least five to one.018 (2)

I have been unable to determine how the furniture makers described their pieces or even when the term “Winged Griffin” was originally attached to their work… the fact is that today the lion with wings is known as a “Winged Griffin”.

Our friends at Wikipedia also had this to say about Griffins:  “As the lion was traditionally considered the king of the beasts and the eagle was the king of the birds, the griffin was thought to be an especially powerful and majestic creature. The griffin was also thought of as king of the creatures. Griffins are known for guarding treasure and priceless possessions.”

It therefore seems entirely appropriate that carved Griffins would be the supports of the top shelf on the Buffet/Sideboard.  The Griffins are after-all guarding the family treasure of china and silver.

I’m not sure that I have made the Griffin issue is any more clear… however here is another Griffin – cast into the top of an early 1900’s floor lamp.114

Interestingly, the day that Shady Lawn Antiques reopened, and the Winged Griffin Buffet was first on display, Mike brought the lamp in to sell to me.  He said: ” it is a brass plated iron lamp with a Lion on it”… look closer Mike… the lion has wings!

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 19, 2013 1:39 pm

    Your style is so unique compared to other people I’ve read stuff from. Thanks for posting when you have the opportunity, Guess I’ll just bookmark
    this site.

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