The aim of this project is to perform a comparative study of three artworks (bronze casts of Islamic provenance), to discover evidence of similarities and to get new insight on their origin.

Probably produced within the Islamic Mediterranean in the eleventh century, the Griffin has incised on its body a long inscription in Arabic expressing good wishes. Captured by the Pisans, it underwent an extraordinary transformation: for centuries it was a terrifying, sound-producing guardian figure on top of the roof of Pisa Cathedral. The present project is focused on the Griffin but also includes alongside it other bronze animal sculptures such as a Lion and a Falcon. It is hoped that the interdisciplinary study of the Griffin will shed light on the significance of such objects in a global Mediterranean culture.




Project director:
Anna Contadini, SOAS, University of London, UK

Committee members:
Gabriella Garzella, University of Pisa, Italy
Gianluca de Felice, Opera della Primaziale Pisana, Pisa, Italy
Massimo Vidale and Stefano Ferrari, Istituto Centrale del Restauro, Rome, Italy
Roberto Scopigno, CNR-ISTI, Pisa, Italy

Sponsor and owner of the Griffin:
Opera della Primaziale Pisana, Opera Museum, Pisa, Italy

3D digitization:
Bernd Breuckmann, Breuckmann GmbH, Meersburg, Deutschland
Marco Callieri and Matteo Dellepiane, CNR-ISTI, Visual Computing Lab, Pisa, Italy

3D scanned data processing and interactive visual tools:
Roberto Scopigno, Marco Callieri, Matteo Dellepiane, and Paolo Brivio, CNR-ISTI, Visual Computing Lab, Pisa, Italy

Computer Animation and Video Production:
Francesco Gabellone, CNR-IBAM, Lecce, Italy
Video interview to Anna Contadini by Una Knox, Victoria & Albert Museum, London UK

Paolo del Freo, Pisa, Italy

Selected Readings

Eredità dell'Islam - Arte islamica in Italia.
Contadini, Anna (1993)
In: Curatola, G, (ed.),Milan: Silvana Editoriale, La Spagna dal II/VIII al VII/XIII Secolo. pp. 105-132.

Beasts that Roared: The Pisa Griffin and the New York Lion.
Contadini Anna and Camber, R. and Northover, P. (2002)
In: Ball, W. and Harrow, L., (eds.), Cairo to Kabul. Afghan and Islamic Studies Presented to Ralph Pinder-Wilson. Melisende, pp. 65-83.

Translocation and Transformation: Some Middle Eastern Objects in Europe.
Contadini, Anna (2010)
In: Lieselotte E. Saurma-Jeltsch and Anja Eisenbeiss (eds.),The Power of Things and the Flow of Cultural Transformation: Art and Culture between Europe and Asia, Berlin-Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, pp. 42-65.

The Pisa Griffin and the Mari-Cha Lion. Metalwork, Art, and Technology in the Medieval Islamicate Mediterranean
Contadini, Anna (2018)
Pisa: Pacini Editore