The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of April 13, 2024

Head of a Sphinx

Head of a Sphinx

540–520 BCE
Overall: 27 x 20.5 x 26.3 cm (10 5/8 x 8 1/16 x 10 3/8 in.)
Location: 102B Greek

Did You Know?

Greek sphinxes were often placed on top of columns or grave stelai as guardian figures.


This female head once belonged to a sphinx, a mythological hybrid creature with the head of a woman and body of a winged lion. Her short cylindrical crown, known as a polos, helps to identify her as a sphinx, as does the slope of her hair and neck, which once continued onto a feline body. Also common in ancient Egyptian and Near Eastern art (though more often in male form), the sphinx is best known in Greek mythology for devouring passersby who could not answer her riddle outside the Boiotian city of Thebes. Stone sphinxes like this one served as both votive offerings and grave monuments in Archaic Greece.
  • R. H. “Art of the Early Greeks.” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 15, no. 10 (1928): 191–97. Discussed 191-193
    Bieber, Margarete. "Greek Sculpture in the Cleveland Museum of Art." Art in America Vol. XXXI, Issue 3, July, 1943: 112-126. Reproduced p. 112, Discussed p. 114
    The Cleveland Museum of Art. The Cleveland Museum of Art Handbook. Cleveland, OH: The Cleveland Museum of Art, 1958. Mentioned and Reproduced: cat. no. 12
    Carter, Martha L. Classical Art. Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1961. Mentioned and reproduced: p. 2. Plate 3
    Holloway, R. Ross. Influences and Styles in the Late Archaic and Early Classical Greek Sculpture of Sicily and Magna Graecia. Louvain: Institut supérieur d'archéologie et d'histoire de l'art, 1975. Discussed p. 35, reproduced p.127, figs. 216, 217
    Ridgway, Brunhilde Sismondo. The Archaic Style in Greek Sculpture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977. Discussed p. 158-159, Reproduced figs. 44-45
    Fuchs, Werner, and Josef Floren. Die Griechische Plastik. Band I: Die Geometrische und Archaische Plastik. München: C.H. Beck, 1987. Discussed p. 427-428, Listed p. 457
  • {{cite web|title=Head of a Sphinx|url=false|author=|year=540–520 BCE|access-date=13 April 2024|publisher=Cleveland Museum of Art}}

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