Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Middle Kingdom Sphinx Head

Figure 1
     There are quite a number of sphinxes known from Egypt's Middle Kingdom. For instance, there is the very large sphinx, now in the Louvre in Paris, that was originally made in Dynasty 12 but later re-carved for the Hyksos (Dynasty 15) Pharaoh Apophis. One of the most interesting of the Middle Kingdom sphinxes, though, is the much smaller one represented only by a head that is now in the Brooklyn Museum.

Figure 2
     What makes this piece unusual is that it is a sphinx with the head of a woman, most likely a Queen or Princess. Originally this piece had inlaid eyes, possibly of metal, which were pried out at some point in history (you can see the damage to one of the eye sockets from this removal in figure 1).

     The face of this carving does not have the careworn features so common in the statues of Dynasty 12 kings and has rather heavy eyebrows and  pointed chin that lends a certain softness to the piece.

     The Brooklyn Museum dates this piece to the reign of Amenemhat II and says that it may have been found at Hadrian's villa, just outside of Rome. A couple of years ago I did a number of blog posts about Egyptian artifacts that are still at Hadrian's villa (see my posts from December of 2014) and many others now in Munich that were found at this Roman emperor's home.