Such an applique might have been part of a larger composition or mounted on a piece of furniture, jewellery box or as a part of a candelabrum. It was the custom for the Ancient Romans, especially the wealthy, to have highly decorated everyday life objects, such as jewellery boxes or toiletry tables. Interestingly, motives driven from Egyptian decorative arts, such as sphinxes, hieroglyphs and scarabs, were especially popular in Rome in the years after the defeat of Mark Antony and Cleopatra in 31 BC.
According to the mythological tradition of ancient Greece and Rome, the winged sphinx was a hybrid creature, featuring the head of a human, the body of a lion, and the wings of a bird. The creature appears in a variety of myths and stories – perhaps most famously as part of the Oedipus myth, in which the protagonist correctly answered the Sphinx’s riddle and thus became king of Thebes.