- Museum number
Stone sculpture of a face: probably belonging to the head of a colossal sphinx put together from different materials such as wood and bronze; carved from stone.
- Production date
Height: 60 centimetres
Thickness: 23 centimetres
Width: 40 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- Sennacherib records that several of the colossal figures in his palace were made using several materials in this way, partly overlaid with gold leaf. The practice of making composite statues was long established in the ancient Middle East, but none of any size survives intact. The tradition was carried on to Greece, where some of the finest divine images were described as chryselephantine (ivory and gold). The figure to which this head belonged may have been the base of a giant column.
Unlike the human-headed winged lions and bulls, the clean-shaven sphinx is not typically Assyrian, though like them it was regarded as having protective magical powers. It was adopted from the west, where it was at home in Syrian art, and constitutes another example of Assyrian willingness to accept foreign ideas.
A. H. Layard, ‘Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon’ (London, 1853), 610;
E. Strommenger, ‘Die neuassyrische Rundskulptur’ (Berlin, 1970), 30, pl. 21.
- On display (G10)
- Exhibition history
2018-2019 8 Nov - 24 Feb, London, BM, I am Ashurbanipal, king of the world, king of Assyria
2008-2009 21 Sept-4 Jan, Boston, MFA, 'Art and Empire'
2007 2 Apr-30 Sept, Alicante, MARQ Museum, 'Art and Empire'
2006 1 Jul-7 Oct, Shanghai Museum, 'Art and Empire'
Assyrian Basement (in 1960)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Carried by the ship Fortitude.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 3* (Old Nimrud Gallery No.)