- Museum number
Fragment of limestone relief: showing a seated bearded male sphinx facing right with raised left forepaw, wearing divine horned head-dress with band of rosettes below the feathered top. The sphinx was originally one of a pair flanking a winged disc figure of Ahuramazda, with paws raised in veneration. The sphinx is between horizontal bands of rosettes, each with twelve petals; behind is a lotus stem. An annular earring supports an elaborate drop.There are traces of green pigment of the earring.
- Production date
- 4thC BC (?)
Height: 82 centimetres
Weight: 106.50 kilograms (weighed for G52, March 2007)
Thickness: 7.50 centimetres
Width: 75 centimetres
- Curator's comments
Acquisition noted in the Trustees Reports for 1936-38, no. 17.
This slab was previously suggested by Barnett ("Persepolis", 'Iraq', 1957, p. 62) to be from Palace H. Green pigment on the earring noted by Shahrokh Razmjou but proven on analysis to be 20th century (DSR Project 7304, dated 25 July 2003); however, what appears to be green pigment are still visible on some other sculptures at Persepolis, including the throne of Xerxes on the east side of one of the southern doorways into the Hall of a Hundred Columns (personal observation by St JS, 2000).
CORRES from Mrs F. S. Farmanfarmaian, 15th September 1994.
This sculpture was originally part of the façade on Palace G which was constructed by Artaxerxes III (reigned 358-338 BC) and moved to form the new north façade of Palace H, a move which must either have been at the end of the Achaemenid period or after the fall of this dynasty. The discovery of this sculpture was described on 29 June 1826 thus: "Colonel Macdonald employed people in clearing away the earth from a staircase, and made the interesting discovery of a chimerical figure representing a lion or dragon winged, with a human head, resting one of its paws on a lotus-flower, supported by a stem like that of the date tree. No similar figure had ever previously been discovered at Persepolis" (J.E. Alexander: 'Travels from India to England', London 1827, p. 140). At this time the similar sphinx figures on the Palace of Darius, Palace of Xerxes, Apadana and so-called "Central Building" were still buried although a fragment of another relief found reused at Qasr-i Abu Nasr (known then as Madar-i Sulaiman) had indeed already been commented on by some other early travellers. The purpose of these figures was apotropaic. Variations of the motif recur on a miniature scale on Achaemenid gold appliques, ivory and stamp seals found across the Empire.
- On display (G52/dc5)
- Exhibition history
2006 7 Mar-11 Jun, Barcelona, Fundacion La Caixa, 'L'imperi Oblidat'
2005-2006 Sept-Jan, London, BM, 'Forgotten Empire'
2003/4 Oct-Jan, London, Hayward Gallery, 'Saved!100 Years of the National Art Collections Fund', no.53.
1995-2005 17 Nov-, BM, G52/IRAN
1994 16 Jun-23 Dec, BM, G49/IRAN
1975-ca 1990 Jul-, BM, Iranian Room [IR]
Persian Landing [PL], top of West Stairs
1937 London, Alfred Spero [Sperrow] Gallery (prior to acquisition).
- Incomplete; originally thicker but trimmed at a later date.
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Uncovered by Lieutenant-Colonel John Macdonald in June 1826 and described and drawn in situ shortly thereafter by James Edward Alexander (Alexander: 'Travels from India to England', London 1827, p. 140); removed from the site by Sir John McNeill in 1828. In 1936 it was priced for £700 at the Alfred Spero Gallery (London) but reduced to £600 for the British Museum (ANE Correspondence: letter from Sidney Smith to the Chairman, NACF, dated October 1937). Deposited as a "Persian slab" by the National Art Collections Fund on 18 December 1937; acquisition by the National Art Collections Fund reported to the Trustees 29/12/37.
- Middle East
- BM/Big number
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: 1067 (NACF art review number)