Mysteri­ous
sphinx

56,5 cm

Sculptor: Charles Van der Stappen
Date: 1897
Origin: Brussels, Belgium
Materials: Ivory and silver

Mysterious sphinx

‘Mysterious sphinx’ is the best-known work of the Belgian sculptor Charles Van der Stappen and an icon of Symbolism and Art Nouveau. Van der Stappen created this work for the Hall of Honour at the Colonial Exhibition in Tervuren in 1897.

Her helmet is surmounted by an eagle, a reference to war and victory. The poppies on her armour refer to torpor, the serpent around her wrist to death.

The ivory and silver sculpture is a bust of a young woman, who raises her right hand to her lips in a mysterious gesture.

The Mysterious Sphinx

The combination of alluring beauty with intoxicating destruction is typical of the femme fatale. The image of the femme fatale was a key figure at the turn of the century, a period that was characterised by trust and fear, inspired by the future and by decadence.

The sculpture rests on an onyx base and was presented on a pedestal that was designed by Henry van de Velde.

This iconic sculpture is currently exhibited in a temporary exhibition Horta & Wolfers.

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