Ancient Art
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Sphinx

ca. 530 B.C.

Volcanic stone (tufa)

63.5 x 42.5 x 27 cm (25 x 16 3/4 x 10 5/8 in.)
Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund
1966.59
The sphinx, a hybrid creature with the body of a large, often winged feline (usually a lion) and a human head (usually female) was originally an Egyptian motif that gained popularity in Greek art of the Archaic period. The Etruscans likely became familiar with the image through contact with the Greeks and incorporated it into their own art. In all three cultures, representations of the sphinx were common in funerary contexts, where the ferocious appearance of the creature served to ward off evil. This sculpted fragment of a sphinx, consisting of the head, upper torso, and partial wings, almost certainly functioned as a grave marker. The almond-shaped eyes, prominent smile, and long corkscrew curls all indicate an Archaic date, ca. 530 B.C.
Culture: 
Etruscan
Period: 
Archaic
Classification: 
Sculpture
Status: 
On view
Bibliography: 

“Recent Gifts and Purchases,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 31, no. 3 (Winter 1967–68): 56.

Massimo Pallottino, Giuseppe Proietti, and Gabriella Bordenache Battaglia, Il Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, exh. cat. (Rome: Edizioni Quazar, 1980), 48, fig. 36–38.

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 264, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.

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