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Old Screeds

Sphinxes and Felines at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City is an amazing place. I went to its Cloisters branch years ago, and it turned me on to the existence of feline sagittaries and grotesques. I recently visited the main location in search of liontaurs and liontaur-adjacent art. Here's what I found.

Here is your faithful wemic fan outside the Met, c. 2020. Every person, in and out, was wearing a mask! New Yorkers know from COVID-19!
Felines at the Met in NYC

These Egyptian statues of the goddess Sakhmet, c. 1,375 BC. The feline goddess of violence, unexpected disaster, and disease has the head of a lioness. Note that that's how the Met defines her spheres; Wikipedia describes her as the goddess of war and healing!
Felines at the Met in NYC

The Sphinx of King Senwosret III, c. 1,850 BC.
Felines at the Met in NYC

The granite Sphinx of Hatshepsut, c. 1,475 BC. She was a great queen, but later rulers hated that and destroyed her statues. This is a restoration.
Felines at the Met in NYC

This one is the Sphinx of Amenhotep II, c. 1,425 BC. I love how he is striding forward, tromping on people. There's another sphinx of him, a statue, at the Met.
Felines at the Met in NYC

This 3,400-year-old blue beauty is the Sphinx of Amenhotep III, c. 1,375 BC. He was known as a lion hunter.
Felines at the Met in NYC

I have a few more Egyptian sphinxes, here, here, and here.

Naturally, I was very excited about visiting the Ancient Assyrian art, hoping to catch a true liontaur ("urmahlullu") in the wild, so to speak. Alas the entire Ancient Near East wing was closed. That will need to wait for another visit. :-(

Moving to Cyprus, here are two sphinxes on the capital (topper) of a column, dating to the 5th Century BC.
Felines at the Met in NYC

And from Greece, at about the same time, here's another sphinx column capital, c. 530 BC. This one marked the grave of a youth and a little girl. In ancient Greece, sphinxes were female spirits who protected the dead, says the Met. Also from Greece, c. 625 BC, here's a lovely pair of sphinxes on a large bowl.
Felines at the Met in NYC

Of course, you may think sphinxes are nice and all, but what about wemics? I only found one demi-wemic on this trip to the Met, and I found him too atop a column. I've blogged before about how medieval church stonemasons carved sagittaries into the capitals and higher nooks and crannies of cathedrals. In that post, I posted a photo of a sagittary from the Met. On this trip, I found that same fellow, and alas, he is not as pure a leonine sagittary as I would wish. Here, take a look:

Here he is in all his glory: Foreleg hooves, equine tail, and lion's claws behind!.
Capital sagittary at the Met in NYC

Hard to see, right? Here, take a close look at the feet..
Felines at the Met in NYC

Compare with another capital, evidently by the same artist, of a man wrestling a lion. See, four paws.
Felines at the Met in NYC

I'm not going to bother showing it, but the sagittary has a horse tail, while the lion, a lion tail. So this sagitarry is only part lion.

Home | This post was started in January 2020