Statuette of a couchant sphinx.
Etruscan, c. 530 BC
Bronze. 7,3 cm
Inventory number: H2022
The head of a woman, the wings and the body of a lion characterise this reclining bronze figure as a sphinx. The hollows on the figure’s underside suggest that it was once mounted on some object by means of pins and lead soldering. This means that, like so many of the other bronze figures in the collection of antiquities, the sphinx once acted as a decorative element on furniture or some other household fitting. The reclining sphinx is identical to a figure found in a princely tomb at Castel San Mariano close to the Italian city of Perugia. Thorvaldsen’s sphinx was most likely found on the same occasion. There is much to suggest that both sphinxes originally decorated the same object, a bronze brazier. Many of the bronze figures from the excavations at Castel San Mariano may be products from the Etruscan city of Chiusi. The reclining sphinx, meanwhile, is attributed to a group of fabulous beasts from a Chiusi-inspired workshop in northern Etruria.