Tuesday, May 25, 2010

MFA Preview: Greek Sphinx

The MFA's Greek collection is one of the best in North America. The Museum has an especially large gallery of Greek pottery. We've talked a lot about the different gods, goddesses, and myths that made life in ancient Greece more fun and interesting.

The Greek Sphinx
Most people know the term "sphinx" to mean the more famous giant statue which guards the Great Pyramids of Giza, in Egypt. The Greeks, however, had their own version of a sphinx. The Greek sphinx had the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and the head of a woman. She was famous for demanding the answer to a riddle, and for killing those who were incorrect in their answers. Unfortunately, the MFA's Greek sphinx is without its head, so you'll just have to imagine what she looked like.

Upper part of a grave stele: seated sphinx (sphinx and capital)

Greek, Archaic Period, about 530 B.C.

Height: 141.7 cm (55 13/16 in.) 

Marble, either island (sphinx and plinth) or Pentelic (capital)
 
Classification: Sculpture
Catalogue: Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 017; Sculpture in Stone and 

Bronze (MFA), p. 106 (additional published references); Highlights: Classical Art (MFA), p. 159.
 
On view in the: Early Greek Gallery

Sphinx and plinth were carved in island marble separately from the Pentelic marble capital. This plinth was let into a socket at the top of the capital and secured in a bed of molten lead. There is a large socket on the underside of the capital, with a pour hole from the back side. The abacus and the base of the capital are flush with the volutes, and all surfaces have been smoothed, except the plinth of the sphinx, which shows point or punch marks.

The sphinx crouches to the right, with hind-quarters lifted and head turned to the front. The end of her curving tail rests on her right haunch. The hair, originally black, is shown as a mass descending to the shoulders and divided vertically and horizontally by grooves. The feathers of the wings are carved in relief and were painted alternately green, black, red, and blue. The feathers on the breast form a scale pattern, painted in alternate rows of red and green. The rib of each wing and the flat molding at the top of each foreleg are green.
The capital is of lyre design, consisting of two double volutes, with palmettes in all the interstices. It is open in the center and richly decorated with incised and painted designs. The front and ends of the base are enriched with a delicately carved guilloche. The abacus has four-pointed stars set on three-petaled palmettes, three in front and one on each end. The outer sides of the volutes are incised and painted with a large lotus and palmette pattern. Alternating red and black colors complement the form, carving and incision.
Sphinx and capital have been broken into a number of pieces and rejoined, with slight restorations at the joins. There is more restoration in the lower part of the capital than elsewhere, but this is to a great extent supplanted by an extra piece acquired nearly twenty years after the original purchase was first undertaken. The surfaces are very fresh. The fragments with the parts of the dedicatory inscription have the handsome golden yellow patina of the best Pentelic marble.
See: 40.724a-b for inscribed fragments.

See also Cls. Inv. 186.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
1931 and 1939 Purchase Funds, 1940
Accession number: 40.576
Provenance/Ownership History: By date unknown: with Brummer Gallery, Inc., 110 East 58th Street, New York; purchased by MFA from Brummer Gallery, Inc., October 10, 1940, for $ 65,000.00

3 comments:

  1. Hi Mr.G!!!!!

    is it ok if 2morrow for the MFA the girls wear shorts that are below our knees?? Thanks!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. I guess. Use your best judgment. We want to make a good impression.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ok thank you!!!!!! It was a lot of fun today!!!! :)

    ReplyDelete