Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Cosmetic box fragment carved in relief with the head of a sphinx

Period:
Iron Age II
Date:
ca. 9th century B.C.
Geography:
Iran, Hasanlu
Culture:
Iran
Medium:
Ivory, gold foil
Dimensions:
1.46 x 1.18 x 0.43 in. (3.71 x 3 x 1.09 cm)
Classification:
Ivory/Bone-Vessels
Credit Line:
Rogers Fund, 1965
Accession Number:
65.163.5
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 400
Excavations at Hasanlu in Iran yielded a large number of carved ivory fragments which probably decorated wooden furniture or were used as small precious objects such as boxes. The citadel at Hasanlu was attacked and destroyed around 800 B.C., most likely by military forces of the powerful state of Urartu, centered in present-day Armenia, eastern Turkey, and northwestern Iran. In the fire that destroyed the citadel, many objects were crushed and shattered. The blackened appearance of most of the Hasanlu ivories is due to their exposure to high temperatures at the time of the citadel’s destruction.

This fragment of a pyxis, or box, depicts a seated sphinx. The beardless, perhaps female sphinx wears a soft peaked cap with a band at the forehead, tucked behind the ear. A curled lock of hair covers the back of the neck. The pupil of the eye is drilled to receive an inlay, now missing, as are the sections that make up the wing feathers. The bottom edge of the wing still preserves a small piece of its original gold foil. The base of the pyxis was originally attached to the sides by means of dowels. Although the base is no longer preserved, one of the dowels still remains, inserted into a hole drilled into this fragment.
1964, excavated by Robert H. Dyson Jr. on behalf of the Hasanlu Project sponsored by the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, the Archaeological Service of Iran, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art; acquired by the Museum in 1965, as a result of its financial contribution to the excavations.

“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.

Muscarella, Oscar W. 1966. "Hasanlu 1964." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 25, p. 125, fig. 6.

Muscarella, Oscar W. 1980. The Catalogue of Ivories from Hasanlu, Iran. Hasanlu Special Studies II. University Museum Monograph 40. Philadelphia: The University Museum, University of Pennsylvania, pp. 120-121, no. 227.

Muscarella, Oscar W. 1983. “Hasanlu.” In The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Selections from the Collection of the Ancient Near East Department, exh. cat. Tokyo: Chunichi Shimbun, no. 57.

Dyson, Robert H. Jr. 1989. "Rediscovering Hasanlu." Expedition 31, p. 11, fig. 12d.

Wicke, Dirk. 2008. Vorderasiatische Pyxiden der Spätbronzezeit und der Früheisenzeit. Alter Orient und Altes Testament 45. Münster: Ugarit-Verlag, p. 261, no. HSL.2, pl. 52b.
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