capital with lotus flowers, volutes, and sphinxes

Classical. Cast of the original in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Cypriot, Limestone, Late 5th Century – Early 4th Century BCE.

This funerary stele is topped with two seated sphinxes, positioned back to back so that their wings beautifully mirror each other. Each sphinx raises one paw to rest on a corner palmetto. A central palmetto is positioned evenly between the two figures. The sphinx on the viewer’s right turns its face in a three quarter profile. The sphinx on the viewer’s left is missing its head. A knotted sash is depicted on the stele’s columnar shaft.

Sphinxes originated in Egypt as a mythical creature with a lion’s body and a human head. The motif of the sphinx was adopted by cultures in the Ancient Near East who altered the form to include wings. The winged form of the sphinx then spread to the Aegean and Eastern Mediterranean where it was employed frequently as a funerary motif, as it is here.

  • cast gallery
  • cypriote
  • stele