Shoptalk—deciphering architectural and historic preservation jargon one word at a time!
a fantastic assemblage of animal forms so combined as to produce a single complete, but unnatural animal (Source: Cyril M. Harris, Editor. An Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, Dover Reprint, 1977 – McGraw-Hill, NY.);
Eight chimera stand sentinel on the Oklahoma State Captiol, two on each pediment. The stones were placed in 1916 and 1917 as part of the Capitol’s original construction. Each of these majestic winged lions was carved from a 400-cubic-foot block of Indiana limestone. The Shea, Donnelly and Gilberson Company was responsible for the production of these pieces.
Repetitive sculptural ornament on buildings, such as the chimeras, are not typically "signed" or marked. However, two of the Oklahoma State Capitol chimeras have the initials "C.W" chiseled into the rear flank. Research is underway to try to determine whose initials they are; they may represent the sculptor who designed the pieces, or the carver.
Chimera are sometimes confused with other mythological beasts, particularly griffins and sphinxes. Griffins are mythological beasts with a lion’s body and an eagle’s head and wings, also frequently with talons for front legs. Sphinxes typically have a human head on a lion’s body and may or may not have wings.
Chimera at the Oklahoma State Capitol (south facing on west pediment).
C.W initials chiseled into the flank of the east facing chimera on the Oklahoma State Capitol’s north pediment.
C.W. initials chiseled into the flank of the west facing chimera on the Oklahoma State Capitol’s south pediment.
Illustration of a griffin. (Image: Cyril M. Harris, Editor. An Illustrated Dictionary of Historic Architecture, Dover Reprint, 1977 – McGraw-Hill, NY.)
Assyrian sphinx “Future” facing west, shielding its eyeswith its wings from an unknown future. (Photo: Building a Nation: Indiana Limestone Photograph Collection, Indiana Geological Survey, Indiana University, http://purl.dlib.indiana.edu/iudl/images/VAC5094/VAC5094-02889, accessed Jan. 4, 2017.)