Openwork plaque with Sphinxes

900-800 BC

Neo-Assyrian

This ivory plaque may have come from the Neo-Assyrian building at the outpost of Arslan Tash in Syria. While the subject of the recumbent winged sphinx with wig, broad collar, and lotus flower under the front paw is an Egyptian convention, the facial type is Syrian in style—oval face, small mouth, and receding chin. Often in the Syrian style, single figures are shown in profile and juxtaposed in symmetrical compositions for large pieces of furniture. This is the case here with the two sphinxes, back to back, forming parts of two separate scenes, perhaps flanking trees with counterparts that are now missing. The seated sphinx has sharp features and wears a cap, very different from the Egyptian-style types: he may be a male figure. The sharply cut, tiered wings of both figures are also characteristic of this style.

(Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Notes

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