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Art/ Collection/ Art Object

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:
4.92 x 3.9 in. (12.5 x 9.91 cm)
Classification:
Ivory/Bone-Sculpture
Credit Line:
Gift of George D. Pratt, 1932
Accession Number:
32.161.47
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 reddish 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 right side.
Acquired by the Museum in 1932, gift of George D. Pratt.

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

"Origin and Influence, Cultural Contacts: Egypt, the Ancient Near East, and the Classical World." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, December 18, 1970–April 23, 1971.

"Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C." The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, November 17, 2008–March 15, 2009.

Winlock, Herbert E. 1933. "Assyria: A New Chapter in the Museum's History of Art." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 28 (2), p. 24.

Dimand, Maurice S. 1936. "A Gift of Syrian Ivories." The Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 31 (11), p. 221.

Decamps de Mertzenfeld, Christiane. 1954. Inventaire Commenté des Ivoires Phéniciens. Paris: E. De Boccard, p. 164, pl. CXXV, fig. 1088b.

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

Bittel, Kurt. 1976. Die Hethiter. Munich: Verlag C.H. Beck, p. 70, fig. 44.

Bittel, Kurt. 1976. Les Hittites. Paris: Editions Gallimard, p. 70, fig. 44.

Liebling, Roslyn. 1978. Time Line of Culture in the Nile Valley and its Relationship to Other World Cultures. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art [Incorrectly noted as 58.29].

Encyclopedia of World Art: World Art in our Time, vol. XVI, supplement.

Harper, Prudence O. et al. 1984. "Ancient Near Eastern Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 41 (4), Spring 1984, p. 221.

Symington, Dorit. 1995. "Hittite and Neo-Hittite Furniture," In The Furniture of Western Asia: Ancient and Traditional, edited by G. Hermann. Mainz: Philipp von Zabern, pl. 28a.

Aruz, Joan and Jean-Franҫois de Lapérouse. 2008. “Furniture Support and Plaque.” In Beyond Babylon: Art, Trade, and Diplomacy in the Second Millennium B.C., exh. cat. edited by Joan Aruz, Kim Benzel, and Jean M. Evans. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, no. 46a, pp. 83-85.

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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