Egyptian / Sphinx of Senwosret III / ca. 1878-41 B.C.E.Egyptian
Sphinx of Senwosret III
ca. 1878-41 B.C.E.

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Creator Nationality: African; North African; Egyptian
Creator Name-CRT: Egyptian
Title: Sphinx of Senwosret III
Title Type: Object name
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: -187
Creation End Date: -4
Creation Date: ca. 1878-41 B.C.E.
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: gneiss
Dimensions: L. 28 3/4 in. (73 cm)
AMICA Contributor: The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 17.9.2
Credit Line: Gift of Edward S. Harkness, 1917

Because of their strength, ferocity, imposing mane, and awesome roars, lions were associated with kingship since prehistoric times. As divine guardians against evil, they also symbolized in cosmic myths the place on the horizon where the sun was reborn every day. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, the sphinx symbolically combined the power of the lion with the image of the reigning king. In this magnificent example, the face belongs to Senwosret III of Dynasty 12. He wears a pleated linen headcloth, called a nemes headdress, which is symbolic of kingship. The nemes is surmounted by a cobra, which represents the goddess Udjo, one of the protectors of the king. The cobra's hood and head were either carved separately or they were repaired in antiquity, for there is an ancient dowel hole drilled into the neck.

While the Egyptians viewed the standing sphinx as a conqueror, the crouching sphinx was a guardian of sacred places. Thus pairs of sphinxes flanked avenues or entrances to important buildings. This sphinx was carved from a single block of beautifully grained anorthosite gneiss from quarries in Nubia. The sculptor has used the pattern in the stone to great effect on the body of the lion and has masked the rather awkward transition from animal body to human head with the headdress and the stylized pattern representing the lion's mane.

AMICA ID: MMA_.17.9.2
AMICA Library Year: 2000
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright The Metropolitan Museum of Art

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