Sphinx Artist: Unknown

ca. 530 B.C.

Ancient Art

On view, 1st floor, Ancient Art

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.


Volcanic stone (tufa)


25 × 16 3/4 × 10 5/8 in. (63.5 × 42.5 × 27 cm)

Credit Line

Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Class of 1913, Fund

Accession Number





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 records is ongoing.



From Vulci; bought from K.J. Hewitt Ltd, London.
  • Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 264, ill
  • 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
  • "Recent Gifts and Purchases," Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 31, no. 3 (Winter 1967–68), 56
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

figures (representations)

Technical metadata and APIs


Open in Mirador

View IIIF manifest

The International Image Interoperability Framework, or IIIF, is an open standard for delivering high-quality, attributed digital objects online at scale. Visit iiif.io to learn more

Linked Art

API response for this object

Linked Art is a Community working together to create a shared Model based on Linked Open Data to describe Art.