Archaic Greek Bronze Statuette of a Sphinx

Greek · Archaic, 6th century B.C.




L: 7.5





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The Sphinx originates from Egypt and was transposed into Grecian stories. In Greek mythology, the sphinx has the head of a woman, the body of a lion and wings. She is known to be vicious and devours anyone who fails to answer her riddle. The sphinx’s end came when Oedipus correctly answered the following riddle: “what is it that has one voice, and is four-footed and two-footed and three-footed? An oracle existed for the Thebans to the effect that they would be free of the Sphinx when they guessed her riddle, so they often convened to search for the meaning, but whenever they came up with the wrong answer, she would seize one of them, and eat him up. When many had died, including most recently Kreon’s own son Haimon (Haemon), Kreon announced publicly that he would give both the kingdom and the widow of Laios (Laeus) to the man who solved the riddle. Oidipous (Oedipus) heard and solved it, stating that he answer to the Sphinx’s question was man. As a baby he crawls on all fours, as an adult he is two-footed, and as he grows old he gains a third foot in the form of a cane. At this the Sphinx threw herself from the acropolis.”

In Egyptian mythology the sphinx is depicted as a man and contrary to the Greeks as a benevolent figure. Both mythologies saw the sphinx as a guardian figure and hence frequently used them outside of temples.


Art market, prior to 2007;
Ex- US private collection, New York, 2007


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