Winged Sphinx with lioness head


About this object

Sculpture of a winged animal which is likely to be a sphinx because of its frontal pose and winged body although the head is of a lioness. This is an anomaly in the representation of a sphinx with the lioness head, the head is attached to the body and is therefore not an inaccurate restoration. The sculpture may be an ancient and unique ancient example but it's difficult to prove without knowning the excavation context. It is therefore more possibly that the sculpture is a pastiche of ancient and modern elements. The lion's face is similar to heads from Roman tables with the broad nose, the open mouth and the receding forehead and the simplified mane of flame shaped curls and that the 18th century restorer tried to create a sphinx and Bartman suggested the assemblage made by Piranesi in the Stockholn National Museum. Water damage on the mouth may suggest that the head of the Ince piece belonged to an ancient fountain ornament and there is also a deep round channel carved into the mouth.

Restored are the upper back, much of the tail, the left wing, upper half of right wing, right front leg, left knee and lower jaw. The muzzle that was missing was originally pinned. The plinth is broken and rests on a modern mount. There is deep round channel carved into the mouth and this may indicate that it was converted into a fountain and this would also explain the weathering of the face.

Object specifics

  • Type
  • Culture
    Roman Imperial
  • Artist/Maker
  • Place made
    Europe: Southern Europe: Italy: Rome
  • Date made
    18th Century
  • Materials
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Col. Joseph W Weld, 1959
  • Collector
    Henry Blundell
  • Place collected
  • Date collected
  • Measurements
    595 mm x 460 mm
  • Note
    Bought from the Villa Borioni. Bartman comments: a similar example can be found in a sculptural assemblage made by Piranesi with two similar crouched winged felines flanking a stack of carved objects. A deliberate attempt by a restorer to enhance the antiquity of the piece. Water damage on the mouth may suggest that the head belonged to an ancient fountain ornament.
  • Related people
    Henry Blundell ( Collector, previous owner); Joseph William Weld ( Previous owner)

Explore related


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    Publisher: Clarendon Press
    Date: 1929
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  • An Account of the Statues, Busts, Bass Relieves, Cinerary Urns, and other ancient marbles, and paintings at Ince. Collected by H.B.

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    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
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  • The Ince Blundell collection of classical sculpture Volume III-The ideal sculpture

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    Author: Bartman, Elizabeth
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 2017
    Description: This book investigates the important antiquities collection formed by Henry Blundell of Ince Blundell Hall, near Liverpool, in the late eighteenth century. Consisting of more than 500 ancient marbles - the UK's largest collection of Roman sculptures after that of the British Museum - the collection was assembled primarily in Italy during Blundell's various 'Grant Tour' visits. As ancient statues were the preeminent souvenir of the Grand Tour, Blundell has strong competition from other collectors, British nobility and European aristocrats, monarchs, and the Pope. His statues represent a typical cross section of sculptures that would have decorated ancient Roman houses, villas, public spaces and even tombs, although their precise origins are largely unknown. Most are likely to have come from Rome and at least one was found at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli.


Previous owners

  • Joseph William Col Sir 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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