Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Horse blinker carved in relief with a seated sphinx

ca. 8th century B.C.
Mesopotamia, Nimrud (ancient Kalhu)
4.13 x 7.32 in. (10.49 x 18.59 cm)
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1954
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 404
The craftsmen who carved ivories in the Phoenician style were strongly influenced by Egyptian art. Many of these ivories illustrate Egyptian themes and motifs, but in entirely original compositions. Phoenician-style ivories were used primarily as furniture decoration. Some are solid plaques; others are carved on one or both sides in a delicate openwork technique. Many were originally covered with gold leaf and inlaid with semiprecious stones or colored glass.

Elaborate horse trappings, including frontlets and blinkers such as this one, were sometimes crafted from ivory and are represented on Assyrian reliefs. This spade-shaped horse blinker is decorated in low relief with a seated sphinx wearing the Egyptian cobra, or uraeus, and sun disk on its head. Another winged uraeus and sun disk faces the sphinx to its left. Behind the sphinx is a cartouche attached to a lotus plant. The hieroglyphic inscription inside the cartouche is a Phoenician name, "Djunen."
1952, excavated by Max Mallowan, on behalf of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; ceded in the division of finds to the British School of Archaeology in Iraq; acquired by the Museum in 1954, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.

“Archaeology: Exploring the Past,” The Junior Museum of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, September 22, 1962–June 30, 1966.

Mallowan, Max E.L. 1953. "The Excavations at Nimrud (Kalhu) 1952." Iraq 15, p. 22.

Mallowan, Max E.L. 1953. "Treasures and Palaces of the Assyrian Kings: Ivories and Works of Art Newly Discovered in the Nimrud Excavations." Illustrated London News, pp. 296-299.

Lines, Joan. 1955. "The Ivories from Nimrud." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 13, pp. 236-239.

Oates, Joan. 1958. "Digging Up Nimrud." News Bulletin, Institute of International Education 34, p. 20.

Davidson, Marshall ed. 1962. Horizon Book of Lost Worlds. New York: American Heritage Pub. Co., p. 205.

Ghirshman, Roman. 1965. "Notes Iraniennes XIV, Deux Oeilleres en Bronze des Rois D'Urartu." Artibus Asiae 27, fig. 6.

Mallowan, Max E.L. 1966. Nimrud and its Remains I. London: Collins, p. 126, fig. 67.

Orchard, J.J. 1967. Equestrian Bridle-Harness Ornaments: Catalogue & Plates. London: British School of Archaeology, pp. 21-22, pl. XXII:116.

Foltiny, Stephen. 1967. "The Ivory Horse Bits of Homer and the Bone Horse Bits of Reality." Bonner Jahrbücher 167, pp. 16-17, fig. 4.
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