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Egyptian sphinx and the EYE | by jjamv
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Egyptian sphinx and the EYE

Cleopatra's Needle*


Cleopatra's Needle is flanked by two faux-Egyptian sphinxes cast from bronze that bear hieroglyphic inscriptions that say netjer nefer men-kheper-re di ankh (the good god, Thuthmosis III given life). These Sphinxes appear to be looking at the Needle rather than guarding it. This is due to the Sphinxes' improper or backwards installation. The Embankment has other Egyptian flourishes, such as buxom winged sphinxes on the armrests of benches. Restoration work was carried out in 2005. The original Master Stone Mason who worked on the granite foundation was Lambeth-born William Henry Gould (1822–1891).

The scars that disfigure the pedestal of the obelisk, the bases of the Sphinxes and the right hand Sphinx, were caused by the fragments of a bomb dropped in the roadway close to this spot, in the first raid on London by German aeroplanes a few minutes before midnight on Tuesday 4th September 1917. In commemoration of this event, the damage remains unrepaired to this day and is clearly visible in the form of shrapnel holes and gouges on the right-hand sphinx.

These are Victorian versions of the traditional Egyptian original. The benches on the Embankment also have winged sphinxes on either side as their supports.


A bronze sphinx sits on each side of Cleopatra’s Needle, a 60 ft Egyptian granite obelisk dating from well before Cleopatra’s time. It was presented to the British by the Turkish occupiers of Egypt in 1819, but not transported to this country until almost 60 years later.

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Taken on May 15, 2012