Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Great Sphinx -4

This was, as far as we know, one of the very first of the Egyptian sphinxes, though there is at least one other, attributed to Djedefre, that predates it.
The rules of proportion commonly employed on later and smaller examples may not yet have been formulated at the time of the carving of the Great Sphinx of Giza.
In any case, the carving of sphinxes was always a flexible formula, to an unusual degree in the context of Egyptian artistic conservatism.
Then again, the Sphinx may have been sculpted to look its best when seen from fairly close by and more or less from the front.
There is also the possibility that there was simply insufficient good rock to make the head, where fine detail was required, any bigger.
Also, the fissure at the rear of the Great Sphinx may have dictated a longer body, rather than one much too short.
There remains the possibility that the head has been remodeled at some time and thereby reduced in size, but on stylistic grounds alone this is not likely to have been done after the Old Kingdom times in ancient Egypt.
There are three passages into or under the Sphinx, two of them of obscure origin. The one of known cause is a short dead-end shaft behind the head drilled in the nineteenth century. No other tunnels or chambers in or under the Sphinx are known to exist.
A number of small holes in the Sphinx body may relate to scaffolding at the time of carving.
The figure was buried for most of its life in the sand.
It was King Thutmose IV (1425 - 1417 BC) who placed a stela between the front paws of the figure. On it, Thutmose describes an event, while he was still a prince,
when he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the sphinx.
During a dream, the sphinx spoke to Thutmose and told him to clear away the sand.
The sphinx told him that if he did this, he would be rewarded with the kingship of Egypt. Thutmose carried out this request and the sphinx held up his end of the bargain. Of course, over time, the great statue, the only single instance of a colossal sculpture carved in the round directly out of the natural rock,
once again found itself buried beneath the sand.