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Sekhmet on Bond Street: Is this the Oldest Statue in London?

Above the entrance to Sotheby’s on Bond Street in London is a sculpture of an ancient Egyptian goddess. The obvious feline features immediately identify her as Sekhmet. Depicted as a lioness, she was a warrior goddess and goddess of healing. Given how valuable ancient Egyptian artefacts are, we are more used to seeing them in glass cases and watched over by security. Is this a replica or an original ancient Egyptian sculpture? If the latter, could it be the oldest outdoor sculpture on the streets of London?

London’s Bond Street is known widely for its expensive boutiques selling designer fashion and jewellery. It is also home to Sotheby’s, the world’s fourth oldest auction house in continuous operation. Sotheby’s was founded in London (1744), and moved to its current premises on Bond Street in 1917.

Above the entrance to the auction house is a black diorite sculpture of a female with a lioness’ head. Anyone who has seen a fair amount of Egyptian art will immediately wonder about a connection. Its position, however, will make many think it must be a replica of an original piece, or perhaps a more contemporary work that was inspired by ancient Egyptian art.

In fact, it is an ancient artefact, not a replica. Sekhmet statues have their origin in the 18th Dynasty (ca 1390-1352 BC), during the reign of Amenhotep III. Over 600 of these statues have been found throughout Egypt, many of which were recovered from Amenhotep’s mortuary temple alone. Sekhmet was the goddess of healing, and was depicted as a lioness. The inscription of the shelf is therefore accurate: Sekhmet 18th Dynasty circa 1320 BC. This has never been in doubt.

But how does such an object come to be on the street, so to speak?

Entrance to Sotherby's on Bond Street in London.
Sotheby’s on Bond Street, London.
Two close-up views of the Sekhmet statue above the Sotherby's entrance on Bond Street in London.
Close-up images of the Sekhmet Statue above Sotheby’s entrance on London's Bond Street.

Chatwin and the Sotherby's Sekhmet

The Oldest Statue in London?

More Sekhmet Statues in on Display in England

Two Sekhmet statues on display in museums in England.
Two strikingly similar statues of Sekmet; the one on left is in the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, and the one on the right is in the Great North Museum in Newcastle.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

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