Exhibitions: Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity

Head from a Female Sphinx

This sculpture representing a queen or daughter of King Amunemhat II has long fascinated collectors. The Roman emperor Hadrian (117–138 C.E.) brought it to Italy from Egypt in 130 C.E. to be displayed alongside other Egyptian antiquities at his villa in Tivoli, near Rome. There the statue decorated The Canopus, a pool meant to represent a canal in Egypt connecting the towns of Canopus and Alexandria. The sculpture next belonged to Cardinal Alessandro Albani (1692–1779), who displayed his large antiquities collection in a private art museum in the Villa Albani where the statue was admired by Johan J. Winckelmann (1717–1768), known as the father of classical archaeology. In 1772, the Scottish painter Gavin Hamilton purchased the statue in Rome for William Petty (1735–1805), the first Marquis of Lansdowne, second Earl of Shelburne, and the British Prime Minister who conceded American independence in a treaty with Benjamin Franklin. Lord Shelburne's descendents kept the statue on a fireplace in their London house until 1929. In 1956 the statue came on the market and the Brooklyn Museum purchased it, making it available to the public for the first time in nearly two thousand years.