Anonymous, ‘De schynschoone actie-sphinx springt hier zig zelven dood, zo dra als Edipus het vals geheim ontbloot.’ Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid (serietitel) 1720, copper etching on paper, 32,2 x 38,3 cm.

This engraving is a cartoon on speculation, personified by the floating man with balloons (air filled pig bladders), illustrating the Dutch term ‘windhandel’ literally: ‘trade in wind’. His upward movement is contradicted by a sphinx that just threw her heavy body from a high rock: her traditional wings indeed are missing here. The banderole identifies her quite remarkably as ‘De SchijnSchone Actie-Sphinx’, that reads something like ‘The Fake Beauty Action-Sphinx’ . She jumps towards her death, as the text continues to explain, after Oedipus uncovers her spurious secret. So she, too, is the embodiment of, unmasked by the wise Oedipus. All the figures are grouped around the Scotsh economist John Law (1671-1729), wearing the wig, who became extraordinairy rich in the trade of shares which worth was actually based on nothing. Dutch traders followed this example, but the trade led to a serious crash on the financial market in 1720.

The engraving once was was one of the warnings, part of the satirical book on stockjobbing, ‘Het Groote Tafereel der Dwaasheid’ (The Great Mirror of Folly). The book itself is called ‘Bibliographical horror’* bij the curator of Library of the Erasmus University in Rotterdam: although the different specimen in their collection bear the same name, the content of books differs as each copy holds arbitrairy engravings and texts related to the topic: apparently also book sellers tried to benefit from the situation by rearranging

Here the engraving is accompanied by a (Dutch) poem as well:

Een zieke speugt hier de Acties weêr,

Waar meê zyn maag was overláden,

Vast rollende op een Ton, ter neêr,

Dus lérende met schand en schaden;

Men raapt die yv’rig uit den drek,

Om die tot winst weêr kwyt te ráken,

Terwyl een wind’rige Actie-gek,

Scheynt met een Schagg’raar koop te máken,

Om dus zyn geld voor wind en waan,

Eer lang te zien in rook vergaan,

Want de Actie-prys daald uur op uur,

Waar door de Dienstmaagd heel verlégen,

Die klad-papieren smyt in ‘t vuur,

Waar meê dat de aâr zyn aars gaat vegen,

Gints vliegt een Snoeshaan door de lugt,

Op Varkens blázen voort gedréven,

Dog heel gelukkig, zo die vlugt,

Niet word beslóten met zyn léven,

Terwyl die by den blanken stroom,

Kykt ‘t Actie-katjen uit den boom,

Daar zyn konfrater meê nieuws gierig,

In ‘t water bruit, en haast verzinckt,

Nog handeld men al even vierig,

Schoon hy in d’Actie-streem verdrinkt,

Daar weêr eene and’re heel onzinnig,

Wil met zyn stok dwars in het hol,

Gints ryd’er een heel snel en vinnig,

Die ‘t meê niet min schort in de bol,

Regt naar Vianen en zyn vrinden,

Maar ach! daar is geen plaats te vinden,

Waarom! die Stadt ook is omringt,

Op alle wegen met Zoldáten;

Wyl ‘t Monster zig te barsten springt,

En moet het heilloos leven láten,

Als Edipus ‘t geheim ontdekt,

Van zyn verborge raadzel vrágen,

‘t Geen tot een Zinnebeeld verstrekt,

Van de opgeworpe Bubbel-vlágen,

Dies kan men hun geheim verstaan,

Wel meê haast uit zig zelf vergaan.

Arpots, Robert, ‘Het groote tafereel der dwaasheid: de aandelenbubbel van 1720’ on:

Goetzmann, William N., Catherine Labio, K. Geert Rouwenhorst, & Timothy G. Young (eds.), The Great Mirror of Folly. Finance, Culture, and the Crash of 1720. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2013.


Catch of the Week On Tour: Place de Châtelet, Paris


Photo: Klaas Herman Knol

Four sphinxes are lying at the base of the fountain (1806-08) by François Jean Bralle (1750-1832) on the Place de Châtelet. The column, modelled after Egyptian palm colonettes, is made between 1806 and 1808, to memorize several of Napoleon’s sieges under which the Battle of the Pyramids. When it was replaced between 1855-58, a plinth was added with four waterspitting egyptianesque sphinxes as a symbol of Napoleon’s so called siege in Egypt. Architect Gabriel Jean Antoine Davioud (1823-81) designed the quartet that Henri Alfred Jaquemart (1824-1896) sculptured. Based on the sphinxes from the allee in Luxor, despite the missing false beard. Also their mouths are open so the water spouts out elegantly: ‘the desert seems to be forgotten’.*

Egyptomania: Egypt in Western Art. (Louvre) Paris, (National Gallery of Canada) Ottawa, (Kunsthistorisches Museum) Vienna 1994, p272.
* Humbert, Jean-Marcel, L’égyptomanie dans l’art occidental. Paris 1989, p.221.

Catch of the Week 45: Snow Globe


CotW 45 Snow globe

Twist the sphere around and as a result an enormous snow storm whirls around your miniature city. The cute effect reminds in nothing to the expected epic snow storm that  is supposed to sweep the east coast of the United States.

The snow association within the globes is so strong, the desert variant is always a bit unexpected: gold sprinkles glitter in a desert storm to reveal the sphinx. This typical souvenir I bought during my years as a tour guide in Egypt (1990’s), there was also a variant in the form of a pyramid housing a sphinx. That was too beyond reaility…

CotW 45 Snow globe 2

Catch of the Week 43: Sphinx Bowie

CotW 43 Sphinx Bowie

Ward Brian (), ‘Bowie as sphinx’, 1971, here re-used als illustration by Pictorial Press Retna for: Gilbert, Pat, ‘Best of Bowie: High Anxiety’ in: Mojo. P.33.

‘The Chameleon of Rock, they called him’, a woman memorizes on television, to continue: ‘but that is false. A chameleon fades with its background while David Bowie stood out.
Right she is. Would ‘the Sphinx’be a better title? The photo from 1971 tells it all. Brian Wardt shot it when experimenting for Hunky Dory’s sleeve image, Ziggy Stardust was not yet manifested. Jewelry and clothing served as props to recall ancient Egypt, and beside the pose of Osiris. hand crossed over the chest, this enigmatic pose recalled the sphinx.

The pose is more than just a reference to the pharaohs: it was a female’s prerogative.  In cabaret, ballet and later early movies, dancers and actresses used the pose. Flirting with male and female iconography, the photo presents an androgynous figure. It was not a success: the photo was not used and neither was the concept further explored.

For more results from this egyptianesque photo session, click here

Pegg, Nicholas, The Complete David Bowie.  Reynolds & Hearn, 2006, p.237

Catch of the Week on Tour: Hannover

CotW on tour Hannover

On the garden site of the Georgen palais or Wallmoden castle, two baroque female sphinxes are guarding the entrance.  They are individually carved from sandstone, each with a different facial expression, and the one with tense claws while the other is more relaxed.

CotW on tour Hannover1CotW on tour Hannover2

The Palais was designed by Master Builder Johann Georg Tänzel (1755-1812) between 1780 and 1782 where now the Wilhelm Busch Museum is housed:Click here for the website

Catch of the Week 41: Merry Christmas

CotW 41 Merry Christmas

‘Egyptian girls’, three colourprint with gold overprint, stamped ‘A Merry Christma’s’, carte postale/weltpostverein.

Not a typical winter greet, these two pseudo-egyptian girls with their roses and draperies: the bracelet and details in gold give away the intention, confirmed bu the sphinxsculpture in silhoutte. The stamped message reads: ‘A merry Christmas’, and that is exactly what I wish for you. With a not typical winter temperature.

Catch of the Week 40: Puss in Boots

The day I visited the Rotterdam Ro theater’s fabulous interpretation of the fairy tail ‘Puss in Boots’: click here for more Information on the show.

CotW 40 Sphinx pink advertisement1CotW 40 Sphinx pink advertisement2

Avedon, Richard (1923-2004), ‘If looks can kill, this one will’ 1962, full colour, double page ad for Revlon lipstick and eye shadow, 42,4 x 28,8 cm from Glamour April 1962, double page

In 1962 the puss was added to ‘Cleopatra’, the text explains her ‘see at night eyes’, with the new trend in heavy eye-make up for ‘Sphinx Eyes’. As a headline in the Times of Februari 2, 1962 reads: ‘Cleopatra is back, Man!’ as the stunning Nile-look is spotted from the Seine to the Mississippi (p.72). To read the article with stunning photos, click here.

The return to ‘making women look the way they were made to look’ was seen in fashion, hairstyle and jewelry. But to enhance her sphinx-like qualities, ‘that shook the pyramids”, Revlon also developped a new Cleopatra look (as only Revlon does it). The shockingly chic sloe-eyed look needed a well worked out advertisement campaign, shot by Richard Avedon. Page 74 and 75 show more pictures of the Avedon shot with different models, here  the Australian Margot McKendry.

CotW 40 Sphinx pink 2 Margot McKendry

CotW 40 Sphinx pink 3 Suzy Parker

Finally the photos with Suzy Parker were selected, here another frame with her head held slightly lower. Her hands might form a clou: as the ‘sphinx pink’ was meant for, lips and matching fingertips’: in her position the nails were actually visible.

But notice the absence of the cat, which was present in the former shoot. Due to the straight line where overlapping Cleopatra, it might be put in later.


‘Cleopatra is back, Man!‘ in: Times. 52, no.5 (Februari 2 1962), p.72-75.

Kleopatra die Ewige Diva. (Kunsthalle Bonn) 2013, pp.292-93.

Catch of the Week 39. Egyptian headdresses: oriental versus pharaonic

CotW 33 A Lichtenstern and Harari oriental headdresses

Lichtenstern, Joseph & David Harari, (Cairo), ‘Sphinx and oriental woman’ 1902-1906, lithograph, 14,2 x 9 cm.

Around 1900, the system of sending a post card was a bit different: the back side was only available for the adress, here to Jungfrau Behr in the Wagnerstrasse in Wuerzburg. The post stamp reveals the date, April 14 1906, so the card was printed before that year.

CotW 33 A Lichtenstern and Harari backside
The front the lower left corner offers place for a –small- message, with a decorative border isolating it from the photo collage. The Austian Joseph Lichtenstein started a post card business in Egypt in 1895. Although he considered himself a Western, he lived his entire life in Egypt and was even buried there.(1) His business went well and he invited the Syrian David Harari to become his business partner in 1902 .
The oriental woman became, like in other post cards from this time, a common subject for their post cards, often soft pornographic with nakes breasts. Here the woman is veiled, her exotic nature confirmed by ornate jewelry of the nose ring. Yet, the typical Egyptian feature was a leather tube over the bridge of her nose, this type of jewelry in fact was worn by Sudanese women.

Below her, the headdress is repeated by the archeological one adorning the head of the great Giza sphinx. From the specific viewpoint and the small man in jelabiyah standing on the lower part, a post card containing the original photo can be identified.

CotW 33 B Giza sphinx


Starr, Deborah, Remembering Cosmopolitan Egypt: Literature, Culture, and Empire. London/New York: Routledge 2009.
Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian, Veiled Images. Rotterdam: Barjesteh, Meeuwes & Co / Syntax Publishers 1996.

Catch of the Week 38: throwing money

CotW 38 munt

Castulo, Jaén (Spain) ‘Helmeted sphinx walking right, star before’ Circa 50 BC. 2,6 cm. (13,40 gr.) Verso: Diademed male head right

In Andalusia, in the first Century BC. coins were used, showing a helmetet sphinx, thin wings straight up, in amble on an indicated base line. Above its raised left front paw a star depicted (here a flowerform is used: a point from which petals/stripes radiate).

It is from Spain that every year Sinterklaas travels to the Netherlands by steam boat. And his story also relates to coins. Sinterklaas, Saint Nicholas, born on March 15, 270, became bishop of Myra, the modern Demre in Turkey. He is considered a sympathic Saint, due to his many miracles. One of those involved a family with three girls, so poor it was impossible to provide a proper drowry. During nighttime Sinterklaas went to the house to throw golden coins inside for the maidens. That is why candy is still thrown, and at nighttime presents are brought on his day of death (December 6 (343)).

Catch of the Week 36: Colosses celebres

CotW 38 Colossus

‘Liebig Company, ‘Le grand sphinx’ from the series ‘Colosses célebres’ 1906, coloured lithography with gold, 11 x 7 cm.

Ramses II, the Grand, brings hommage to the sphinx, explains the text. The pyramids suggest a décor for the great Giza sphinx, yet here another creature is depicted: his nose still is intact. But also the features differ, as are the hieroglyphic inscriptions. This sphinx also forms the top op a roof of what looks like a temple phantasy, monumentel steps leads to the front of the sphinx. The obelisk, also not present on the original Giza plateau, is described with pseudo-hieroglyphs.

The trade card of Liebig Company, advertises ‘meat extract’. The newly invented process of concentrating and preserving beef was so succesfull, the extract was sold all over the world. Between 1870 and 1975, the promotion was done with lithographed cards, mostly in series of 6 or 12 cards. The cards were issued in several countries, so more languages are used, here French. Since the cards were collected from the moment they were given to , the colours, here also gold is added, and quality of lithography undoubtly enhancing a ‘cartophily’.

CotW 36 Colossus overzicht

The sphinx is big, with its height of 20 metres and a length of 55 meters, as the card explains. This card also belongs to a series of six, with the ‘encyclopedic’ theme ‘Famous Colossal Statues’. It further contains the colossus from Nero, the colossus of Rodos (Apollo), The Roland pilar from Halberstadt, the Zeus statue from Athena, and the Liberty statue ‘that enlightens the world’.

Website on Liebig trade cards