Hamburg Group
Civitavecchia Master
Funerary Sculpture of Winged Lion, ca. 540 BCE
Archaic Period
Italy, Etruria, Vulci
Volcanic stone (nenfro)
28 × 34 ¼ × 14 in. (71.1 × 87 × 35.6 cm)
3-D Object/Sculpture
1969-01 DJ

Photo: Hickey-Robertson, Houston
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This large-scale sculpture of a winged feline was most likely produced at the site of Vulci, Italy. It is attributed to a workshop known as the Hamburg Group, and a specific sculptor whose name is unknown but identified by scholars as the Civitavecchia Master. The defining features of the Hamburg Group, exhibited on this piece, are the distinctive curling wings, heart-shaped nose, and the mouth of the animal. 

This sculpture would have been one of several that circled the top of a large earthen mound covering a chamber tomb. These types of tombs were for family units and were typically used for multiple generations. The work clearly represents a feline, but some scholars debate whether it is a lion or a panther because of the lack of a clear mane and the small ears; however, most scholars identify such winged animals as lions. Both panthers and lions were popular in Etruscan imagery and associated with funerary contexts. There were native European lions, which differed from African lions and may not have had the same large mane, which went extinct sometime between 600 and 300 BCE. In ancient art, lions were often used as a symbol of power and protection. The funerary sculptures, such as this piece, were thought to function as guardians who could ward off evil but could also evoke other chthonic (underworld) associations of liminal spaces.