Gorgon Head Antefix

Unknownearly 5th century B.C.

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

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.


  • Title: Gorgon Head Antefix
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: early 5th century B.C.
  • Location Created: Greece
  • Physical Dimensions: 20.8 x 21.8 cm (8 3/16 x 8 9/16 in.)
  • External Link: Find out more about this object on the Museum website.
  • Medium: Terracotta
  • Source Credit Line: The J. Paul Getty Museum, Villa Collection, Malibu, California, Gift of Leon Levy
  • Object Type: Antefix
  • Object Status: Permanent Collection
  • Number: 83.AD.211.1
  • Display Location: Not currently on view
  • Department: Antiquities
  • Culture: Greek
  • Credit Line: Gift of Leon Levy
  • Classification: Architecture

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