Photo © The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, by Vladimir Naikhin
Fragment of a relief amphora decorated with sphinxes of the eastern type
Crete
Orientalizing Period, Daedalic Style, 7th century BCE
Pottery
H: 19; W: 19; D: 3 cm
Gift of Cedric and Daisy Marks, New York, to American Friends of the Israel Museum
Accession number: 71.3.5
 
 
This fragment decorated with heraldic sphinxes represented in a crouching position, probably belonged to the neck of a relief-amphora. Amphorae with similar decoration have been found in many sites in Crete, suggesting a Crete workshop. From the time monsters and beasts made their first appearance in Greek art in the 7th century BCE, they became an inseparable part of Greek mythology. Inspired by Near Eastern figures, they were portrayed as composite beings, combining the special powers of several beasts into one. Paradoxically, these formidable creatures were also considered protective figures and guardians. Their myths and images, together with those of the bold heroes who battled them, continued to appear in Greek art and literature for centuries. The sphinx, a creature of eastern origin, had the face of a woman, the chest and feet of a lion, and the wings of a bird of prey. In this work the sphinx is closer to the original type still not related to the later Greek myth.

Publications:
Weinberg, Saul S., Early Greek and Italian Vases, Israel Museum News 10, 1975, Hebrew

Digital presentation of this object was made possible by: The Ridgefield Foundation, New York, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir