About this object

An idealised female bust with a long jawed face and large elongated eyes set flatly in the face. The present eyes are inserts as were the original eyes. and were probably made in a contrasting stone. The lips are thick and set firmly with an expression of a near pout. The hairstyle is inspired from classical statues especially in the centre part, the flat execution of the crown and the thicker waved strands running along the face and coming together at the back in a knot that has been restored. The sculptor did not execute the side waver in the same way: on the left they are divided in two parts with the backmost comber almost artificially. On the right the waves simply follow the side of the head back into a hairknot.

Bartman noted that in antiquity the general head type and hairstyle would have belonged to a male hero or a deity like Apollo or a female one. She compared it with a female head in the Museo Gregoriano Profano which the scholar Volar attributes to the so-called Mantua Sphinx from the 5th century BC. The images of sphinxes were popular with Roman patrons but it is not clear whether they were used for funerary monuments or for decorative purposes.

Bartman dates the bust to the 2nd century AD because of the schematic representation and the flat definition of the hair.
There are restorations on both eyes, the nose and a patch of hair above the right eye, the bun of hair at the base of the neck, the bust and the bust support. The right ear lobe has been drilled through, the whole surface is blurred possibly because of chemical treatment.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    2nd Century AD
  • Materials
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    530 mm x 330 mm x 220 mm x 22.5 kg
  • Note
    Ashmole noted of the similarity of 59.148.175 with other sphinxes especially the ones from the British Museum. Bartman also founf parallels with similar sphinxes in the legs of a Roman table from the Museum Gregoriano Profano and notedf that they are carved back to back with the pedestal in between. Perhaps the awkard treatment of 59.148.175 could indicated that it was used as a table ornament and was later on cut away as a three dimensional piece. Curator's note: a Sphinx table leg with a similar head is at the British Museum Townley collections 1805,0703.40, http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/collection_online/collection_object_details/collection_image_gallery.aspx?partid=1&assetid=501668001&objectid=398995
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Thomas Jenkins ( Previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

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Previous owners

  • Thomas Jenkins

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Unknown or unrecorded
    Owned until: Unknown or unrecorded
    Disposal method: Unknown or unrecorded
  • Joseph William Weld

    Owned from: 1958
    How acquired: By descent
    Owned until: 1959
    Disposal method: Donation
  • Henry Blundell

    Owned from: Unknown or unrecorded
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1810
    Disposal method: Bequest
Object view = Humanities
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