Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Furniture support: female sphinx with Hathor-style curls

Period:
Middle Bronze Age–Old Assyrian Trading Colony
Date:
ca. 18th century B.C.
Geography:
Anatolia, probably from Acemhöyük
Culture:
Old Assyrian Trading Colony
Medium:
Ivory (hippopotamus), gold foil
Dimensions:
4.88 x 1.44 in. (12.4 x 3.66 cm)
Classification:
Ivory/Bone-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. George D. Pratt, in memory of George D. Pratt, 1936
Accession Number:
36.70.1
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 403
This piece is one of a set of four furniture legs, probably found at the site of a palace at Acemhöyük in central Anatolia, carved in the shape of compact seated sphinxes without wings. They have large eyes with inlaid pupils, only one of which survives intact. Traces of gold foil remain on the hair and headdresses as well as eyes of some examples. The pink staining of this piece indicates that iron oxides are present on the surface, although it is not known whether this was a deliberate decorative treatment, or a result of contact with the soil in which the pieces were buried. Each sphinx wears a wig or hairstyle in which heavy locks of hair ending in large curls, held behind protruding ears, frame the face, resembling images of the Egyptian goddess Hathor. In Egypt, sphinxes with the attributes of Hathor were associated with royal women. It is not known what these images meant in Anatolia, but their location within a palace suggests that they could have had the same function there.

The sphinxes probably belonged to a small piece of furniture that would not have held much weight. Mortises were drilled into the tops of the heads, with additional drilled holes across these mortises that would have held pins to secure tenons. On one side of the head of each sphinx the curls are either omitted or only roughly carved, suggesting this side may not have been visible. This has allowed scholars to reconstruct their original arrangement, in which this piece is positioned at the rear left side.
Acquired by the Museum in 1936, gift of Mrs. George D. Pratt, in memory of George D. Pratt.

“Egyptian Style in the Eastern Mediterranean.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 2, 1938–March 27, 1938.

“The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department,” MOA Museum of Art, Atami, Japan, The Aiche Prefectural Art Gallery, Nagoya, Japan, The Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, Japan, 1983.

Dimand, Maurice S. 1936. "A Gift of Syrian Ivories." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31 (11), pp. 221-223, fig. 1.

Barnett, Richard D. 1939. "Phoenician and Syrian Ivory Carving." Palestine Exploration Quarterly 71, pl. IV, fig. 2.

Decamps de Mertzenfeld, Christiane. 1954. Inventaire Commenté des Ivoires Phéniciens. Paris: E. De Boccard, p. 164, pl. CXXV, fig. 1087a.

Harper, Prudence O. 1969. "Dating a Group of Ivories from Anatolia." The Connoisseur, November 1969, p. 160-161, fig. 8.

Canby, Jeanny Vorys. 1975. "The Walters Gallery Cappadocian tablet and the sphinx in Anatolia in the second millennium B.C.," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 34, p. 236, Fig. 9.

Imai, Ayako. 1983. “Acemhöyük Ivories.” The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 105.

Aruz, Joan, and Jean-François de Lapérouse. 2008. In Beyond Babylon, exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, Kim Benzel and Jean M. Evans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, pp. 83-85, fig. 30.

Simpson, Elizabeth. 2013. “An Early Anatolian Ivory Chair: The Pratt Ivories in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.” In Amilla: The Quest for Excellence, Studies Presented to Günter Kopcke in Celebration of his 75th Birthday, edited by Robert B. Koehl. Philadelphia: INSTAP Academic Press, pp. 229-238, fig. 16.6-.17
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