The sphinx of the taurida


The statue is a counterpart of the Greek sphinx, and the plastic means employed and the modelling of forms have archaic connotations. In particular, the wide-open eyes full of surprise and joy and the famed “archaic smile” emblematize an everyday enthusiasm and hardly fit the stock notion of the sphinx as a cruel and sly creature. These qualities of the statue were informed by the sanguine poetic spirit of the Taurida and the very nature of its art, cross-pollinated by antique, Scythian, and Middle Eastern cultures. This essentially provincial mix called “Alexandrism” perfectly corresponds with the syncretism of the art of the period associated with the expanding empire of Alexander the Great.

In addition, the sphinx itself also personifies historical secrets and represents an experience of combining human and animal abilities within a mythopoetic context. In the statue, the enigmatic nature of this synthesized image is reinforced by the already-mentioned archaic stylistic features and the introduction of architectural elements (the capital of the pilaster with faux crazing) which also emblematize a certain general cultural context.

The statue’s distinctive feature is its good adaptability to a variety of formats – from a miniature to grace a study to a fixture in a park and monumental objects of “architectural” sculpture.

 

Brief annotations to the image

TAURIDA (TAURICA) is the ancient name of the Crimea, which probably originated from the name of the people inhabiting the area – the Tauri. The oldest period of its history is recorded only in legends. About the 7th B.C. Greek colonies started to spring up across the peninsula, the largest among them being Chersonesos and Pantikapea.

SPHINX is a mythical creature with a human head, the paws and body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. In Greek mythology, the sphinx (with a woman’s face) was considered an offspring of the chthonic deities Typhon and Echidna. The Sphinx lay in wait at the entrance to Thebes, stopping travellers to the city, and asking them a riddle; those who could not answer were killed. Other known varieties of sphinxes include the “Egyptian” and “Assyrian” types.