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Work Royal Sphinx with the name of the Pharaoh Achoris

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Royal Sphinx with the name of the Pharaoh Achoris

© 1993 RMN / Christian Larrieu

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Author(s):
Labbé-Toutée Sophie

The sphinx of Achoris is often associated with that of his predecessor Nepherites; the two sphinxes are presented as a pair. They were discovered in Italy, and seem to have been transported there together from Egypt. Apart from a few shabtis, they are the only known representations of these two kings, whose reigns lasted only a few years.

A representation of the king Achoris

This sphinx represents the relatively little-known king Achoris of the 29th Dynasty, one of the last native kings to reign over Egypt. Paradoxically, the sphinx that represents him was one of the first ancient Egyptian objects known in Europe; there is evidence of its presence in Rome from the early 16th century. It first adorned the Capitoline steps, and later (together with the sphinx of Nepherites) decorated a fountain in the gardens of the Villa Borghese, which is probably when a hole was bored into the lower part of its breast.

A hybrid creature with a lion's body and a human head

This is an example of the common "recumbent" type of sphinx. This hybrid creature with a lion's body and a human head lies on a plinth, its forelegs outstretched, its tail curling round to one side. Over its forehead is a uraeus cobra, and its hair is partly covered by a striped Nemes headdress. The thick neck and full cheeks are characteristic of the style of the last dynasties (the nose has been remodeled).

A model for other works

A hieroglyphic inscription on the side of the plinth lists the royal titles. Part of this text was restored thanks to an ancient copy of the inscription. However, a series of strange signs punctuates the otherwise classical phrases. These signs are actually fake restorations made after the Renaissance, which can perhaps be dated thanks to a little motif: a bee in a cartouche, which could be a homage to Napoleon I.
This statue served as a model for several Renaissance works, reflecting the western world's early interest in the sphinx.

Bibliography

Catalogue, Égyptomania, Paris, 1994, pp. 87-91.

Technical description

  • Royal Sphinx with the name of the Pharaoh Achoris

    Late Period, 29th Dynasty, reign of Achoris (393-80 BC)

    Italy, Rome, perhaps the Iseum of the Campus Martius, then the Capitoline steps, then the gardens of the Villa Borghese

  • Basalt, sculpture in the round

    H. 78.5 cm; W. 151 cm; D. 44 cm

  • Purchased 1807, former Borghese collection

    A 27

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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