Sphinx head

Ref: 1417
  • Designer / Maker

    Designed and carved by James Watt (1736-1819)

  • Detail

    Mahogany

    11 x 4.5 cm

    English (presumably Birmingham), 1813

  • Provenance

    James Watt; then by descent; sold Sotheby’s (London), The James Watt Sale: Art & Science, 20 March 2003, lot 243, where acquired by William Agnew.

  • Marked

    Dated 1813 on the reverse side

  • Collection

    Private collection

  • Notes

    This carving is probably that mentioned in a letter from Watt to William Murdock, 7 December 1812, where he states: ‘The turned up edge tool makes very smooth work of an Egyptian head I am cutting in mahogany’ (cited in the Sotheby’s catalogue, ibid.).

    It is possible that the sphinx head is a design for a furniture mount, and the plaster model (see right) may be the next stage in the production before a mould was made for casting.