Terracotta head of a woman, probably a sphinx

Period: Archaic

Date: 1st quarter of the 5th century B.C.

Culture: Greek

Medium: Terracotta

Dimensions: H. 8 1/8 in. (20.7 cm)

Classification: Terracottas

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1947

Accession Number: 47.100.3


Because limestone and marble were readily available, terracotta (fired clay) was not often used for large-scale sculpture in Greece. The proportions and the break at the neck suggest that this exceptionally fine head belonged to a sphinx and was possibly part of the roof decoration of a small building. Sphinxes traditionally served as guardian figures, notably for funerary monuments. Of particular note here is the way the application of polychromy renders details such as the earrings and headband.