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Head from a Female Sphinx

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

On View: Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
Small details sometimes provide crucial clues to understanding a sculpture. On this object, for example, the back of the wig extends horizontally instead of downward, indicating that the head originally belonged to a sphinx, a mythological creature with a human head and a lion’s body. Sphinxes represented the king’s ability to crush Egypt’s enemies. Although sphinxes were usually male, the heavy striated wig shown here only appears on representations of women.

This statue’s inlaid eyes, probably of metal and colored stones, were pried out in antiquity, resulting in extensive damage. Repairs to the eyes, lips, and chin were apparently made in the eighteenth century.
MEDIUM Chlorite
DATES ca. 1876–1842 B.C.E.
DYNASTY Dynasty 12
PERIOD Middle Kingdom
DIMENSIONS 15 5/16 x 13 1/8 x 13 15/16 in., 124.5 lb. (38.9 x 33.3 x 35.4 cm, 56.47kg)  (show scale)
CREDIT LINE Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund
PROVENANCE Archaeological provenance not yet documented, reportedly from Rome, Italy, possibly from Hadrian's villa, Tivoli, Italy; by the 18th century, acquired by Cardinal Albani of Rome; by 1772, acquired by William Petty, Marquess of Lansdowne, England; between 1772 and 1930, provenance not yet documented; March 5, 1930, reportedly sold at Christie's, London, United Kingdom, "The Celebrated Collection of Ancient Marbles, The Property of the Most Honourable The Marquess of Lansdowne"; between 1930 and 1956, provenance not yet documented; before 1956, acquired by George Williams; before 1956, purchased from George Williams by Peter Wilson, Sotheby's; by 1956, acquired by Spink and Son, Ltd., London, United Kingdom; 1956, purchased from Spink and Son, Ltd by the Brooklyn Museum.
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MUSEUM LOCATION This item is on view in Old Kingdom to 18th Dynasty, Egyptian Galleries, 3rd Floor
CAPTION Head from a Female Sphinx, ca. 1876–1842 B.C.E. Chlorite, 15 5/16 x 13 1/8 x 13 15/16 in., 124.5 lb. (38.9 x 33.3 x 35.4 cm, 56.47kg). Brooklyn Museum, Charles Edwin Wilbour Fund, 56.85. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 56.85_front_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE front, 56.85_front_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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