Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Head of a Sphinx

Middle Kingdom
Dynasty 12
reign of Amenemhat I–Senwosret II
ca. 1981–1878 B.C.
From Egypt
h. 18 cm (7 1/16 in) w. 12.5 cm (4 15/16 in) d. 21 cm (8 1/4 in)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, by exchange, 1978
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 111
The uraeus serpent marks the royal status of this person, who is wearing an unusual wig with striations running from the forehead to the back. The statue depicts part of the real hair projecting from underneath the wig, in front of the ear. Looking at the head itself, it seems unclear if a man or woman is depicted. The shape of the mouth and the several tight curls of the uraeus fit well to early dynasty 12, but the naturally sculpted eyebrow and ear point towards the middle of this dynasty. The facial features do not match any king of this period, which makes it more likely that the head depicts a queen or princess. The depth and the angle of the break show that the head was part of a sphinx, a common statue type not only for kings, but also for royal women.
Purchased from Peter Sharrer, New Jersey, 1978. Previously sold at auction, Sotheby's London, 1976, and before that Sotheby's, London, 1967. Published in MMA Notable Acquisitions 1975-1979.

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