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  • image S24

Fragment of the base of an altar or dedicatory cippus

Greek marble

Height: 17cm
Width: 20cm
Depth: 12cm

Museum number: S24

Vermeule catalogue number: Vermeule 225help-vermeule-catalogue-number

Curatorial note

A Grecian Sphinx with long, filleted hair, head turned to the left, pupils expressed; the wings are carved out of either side of the corner and the body divides itself behind the forelegs to follow below the wings in relief, in a similar manner.

The object is the right front corner of the base of a funerary altar or cippus of a well known First or earlier Second type (see P. Gusman, L'Art décoratif de Rome de la fin de la république au IV siècle, Paris, 1908, I, pl.57).

The sphinx, long a part of Greek funerary monuments, became especially popular in the Augustan and Julio-Claudian decorative arts when Augustus made the sphinx his personal seal, his stamped signature for state documents1.

1 See A. Dessenne, Le sphinx; étude iconographique, Paris, 1957, dealing with the Bronze Age origins of the creature; also Enciclopedia dell'Arte Antica, classica e orientale, Rome, 1966, VII, pp.230-235.

Provenance help-art-provenance

Rome; collected in Rome by Charles Heathcote Tatham for the architect Henry Holland during the 1790s. See Cornelius Vermeule, unpublished catalogue of the Antiquities at Sir John Soane's Museum, Introduction, transcription of Tatham letters, List 2, no.50. (Soane Archive)


Tatham: Etchings, 2; Drawings, 1.

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