Head probably from a sphinx

Late Archaic to Early Transitional Period
about 480 B.C.

Catalogue Raisonné

Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 025; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 107 (additional published references).


Height: 21 cm (8 1/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Marble, with some crystalline structure, from mainland Greece or perhaps from the Greek islands

Not On View


The Ancient World



The hair is arranged in waves around the forehead, tied with a broad fillet, and gathered in a large, wide loop behind the neck. The sudden curving out of the right shoulder suggests the subject was a sphinx, with head turned at a forty-five degree angle to the body as was the convention in Attic funerary monuments. Despite weathering, the head with its late Archaic “smile” and strong Transitional chin is, or was, a carving of sensitivity and beauty. The emphatic frontality of the features befits a funerary or commemorative sphinx rather than a maiden as part of a draped votive or sepulchral statue.
All the features and details are worn, as if from weathering in antiquity. There are minor additional damages, some made at the time the sculpture was rediscovered. The surfaces have a crusty, yellowish patina, and some of the darkening appears to have been caused by the atmosphere of New York City in recent decades.


By 1946: Professor Vladimir G. Simkhovitch Collection (said to have come from Aegina); inherited by his daughter after his death in 1959, and kept by her until about 1973; by 1973: with Münzen und Medaillen, A.G., Malzgasse 25, Basel, Switzerland; purchased by MFA from Münzen und Medaillen, A.G., May 9, 1973

Credit Line

John H. and Ernestine A. Payne Fund