Rome, Imperial Period, ca. 1st to 3rd century CE. A solid bronze decorative handle, cast via the lost wax (cire perdue) process, featuring a magnficent sphinx at the lower end and a full-cheeked, cherub-like head at the upper end. The ancient Romans used bronze to create more than weapons and tools. This medium was also used to create household items such as this decorative and iconographically rich handle. True to the ancient Roman sensibility, this piece was no ordinary utilitarian handle. Both technically and artistically, it was impressively designed and cast and presents a gorgeous green patina. See more about its iconography below. Size: 5.875" L (14.9 cm); 5.875" H (14.9 cm) on included custom stand (the same dimension, because it leans back ever so slightly so as to present the sphinx at a pleasing angle.
Although the Great Sphinx of Giza is certainly the most famous, sphinxes have a large place in Greek mythology as well -- probably because of the intermixing of Egyptian and Greek culture via trade routes across the Mediterranean. The Greek version of the sphinx, unlike the male Egyptian one, includes the head of a human female, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and a serpent's tail. Famously, the sphinx asks a riddle of travelers to the city of Thebes, which is solved by Oedipus. However, the Greek version of the sphinx is also sometimes associated with Hera, wife of Zeus.
Provenance: private Orange County, California, USA collection acquired before 2000
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