Gorgon Head Antefix

Object Details


Gorgon Head Antefix






early 5th century B.C.




20.8 x 21.8 cm (8 3/16 x 8 9/16 in.)

Credit Line:

Gift of Leon Levy

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The petrifying head of the gorgon, with its staring eyes, grimacing mouth, protruding tongue, and snaky hair, had the ability to ward off evil. This antefix or architectural decoration exploits the gorgon's protective power. An artisan added bright paint to the molded terracotta head to emphasize the antefix's effect and visibility. The meander pattern painted below the face is a common decorative motif. Stylistic features such as the rolls of tightly coiled curls on the forehead date the work to the early 400s B.C.

The roof tiles running along the eaves of ancient Greek and Etruscan buildings often ended in upright members called antefixes. These mold-made terracottas often took the form of heads, either of humans or mythological creatures. As well as being decorative, architectural terracottas served to cover and protect exposed wooden parts of the architecture from the elements.