Forget the mysterious monolith, we’ve found a surreptitious sphinx (from A Clockwork Orange)!

Forget the mysterious monolith, we’ve found a surreptitious sphinx (from A Clockwork Orange)!

Mysterious monoliths may have been appearing all around the world but we’ve discovered another Kubrick-related conundrum, hiding in a back garden in South London!

Silver pillars have appeared without explanation in the Utah desert, on a Romanian hillside, on an Isle of White beach and now one has turned up on Glastonbury Tor. In reference to Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey many have been willing these monoliths to have been left by aliens and to be igniting an evolution in human-kind. What’s frustrating about this ongoing story, is these reflective triangular monoliths look nothing like the matt black rectangular structures in 2001! We have found something far more tangible relating to another Kubrick magnum opus: A surreptitious sphinx, possibly from A Clockwork Orange in a humble garden in South London.

Cat Lady's house in A Clockwork Orange
Cat Lady’s house in A Clockwork Orange

The disturbing dystopian film A Clockwork Orange (1971) is based on the 1962 book of the same name by Anthony Burgess. Adapted, produced, and directed by Kubrick, the film sees the antisocial delinquent Alex and his droogs reap havoc wherever they go. In one famous scene, the gang descend upon the home of a wealthy yoga-loving “Cat Lady”. Alex proceeds to bludgeon her with a phallic sculpture (the art piece Rocking Machine by Herman Makkink to be precise) while his droogs wait outside.

The entrance to Cat Lady’s house is guarded by two stone sphinx sculptures and one of these may have turned up in London’s Lewisham.

Alex exits Cat Lady's house sphinxes in A Clockwork Orange
The sphinxes in A Clockwork Orange: Alex exits Cat Lady’s house to be greeted by his fellow droogs. The entrance is guarded by two sphinxes either side of the doorway.

The owners of the sphinx in question had no idea of its provenance or significance until prompted by chance to undertake some online research. This led them here to Film and Furniture and to our previously published article “The film sets and furniture of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange: A real horrorshow”.

Sphinx owner Andrea Corsi explained to us: “About a year ago after doing some works on our house, my wife Ellen and I visited a local junk shop in Lewisham called Aladdin’s Cave. It’s a trove of paintings and prints, old furniture, antique fireplaces, lamps, Victorian radiators, old lamps and all sorts of hidden treasures! In the back garden of the shop, hidden behind a stack of old doors, we found a weird statue of a sphinx with moss growing over her.

“It was a very weird sculpture but we immediately took a liking to her. A month later, we returned to the shop to purchase the Sphinx for our small back garden”.

The sphinx in Andrea's garden looks identical to that in A Clockwork Orange
The sphinx in Corsi’s garden looks identical to that in A Clockwork Orange. Image © Andrea Corsi.

A sphinx is a mythical creature with the head of a human and the body of a lion and is an important image in Egyptian and Greek art and legend. The most famous sphinx is the Great Sphinx at Giza, near Cairo, and is probably the most famous sculpture in the world. This sphinx represents Ra-Horakhty, a form of the powerful sun god, and is the incarnation of royal power and the protector of the temple doors.

Corsi continued: “We had originally thought of putting it in a hidden corner of our garden, but the four guys who delivered it put it in the middle of the garden. I was at work that day, and I thought to myself, ‘I’ll push it to a corner later’. But no way! It is made of solid concrete and I couldn’t to move it an inch. At that point Ellen and I agreed with the sphinx that she was perfect wherever she wanted to stay put”.

Details of Corsi’s Sphinx. Is this the sphinx in A Clockwork Orange? Images © Andrea Corsi.

Some months later Corsi’s father visited from Rome. He decided to watch A Clockwork Orange and suddenly spotted two sphinxes outside the house of Cat Lady in the film and immediately realised it was similar, if not the same, as the one sitting his son’s back garden.

“When my father saw the two sphinxes it was a bit of a eureka moment: He immediately sent me a Whats app message saying ‘I think I figured out where your sphinx comes from!” Corsi tells us.

alex cat lady sphinxes in A Clockwork Orange
Alex lies at the entrance of Cat Lady’s house in A Clockwork Orange after being bottled by his fellow droogs. The pair of sphinxes are seen either side of the doorway.

If the role of a sphinx, like the one at Giza, is to protect we can only conclude that the pair in front of Cat Lady’s front doors in A Clockwork Orange did a poor job of guarding her, given her fateful end at the hand of Alex.

The exterior for Cat Lady’s house was filmed at Shenley Lodge, Enfield. It was a health farm at the time of filming A Clockwork Orange and is now a care home. Interestingly, the same location was used to film an episode of the 1960s TV series The Avengers. As author/artist Juli Kearns points out in her analysis of A Clockwork Orange we we see the same front door in The Avengers with two lions either side, so we might assume the sphinxes were chosen specifically as props for A Clockwork Orange.

the avengers
Diana Rigg as as Emma Peel outside the same front doorway used to film A Clockwork Orange with a lion seen to the right. Image c/o

We asked Corsi how he reacted when they first realised the significance of his sphinx: “We were amused and a bit freaked out too. We started to think ‘is it really one of the two sphinxes in the movie?’ It definitely looks like it came from the same cast. But if it was something that was made for sale as outdoor furniture piece, why would you make it solid concrete and so heavy that it needed to be lifted by four people? Also, the sculpture is full of imperfections -for instance, the face of our sphinx protrudes on one side – this is particularly clear if you see it from above which makes me think that it was done quite fast and by someone who cared more about how it looked at a distance.”

sphinx a clockwork orange comparison
Side-by-side comparisons of the sphinxes in A Clockwork Orange and the sphinx in Corsi’s garden by Film and Furniture

Despite watching the scene of the yoga-loving cat lady lady in a green leotard and white tights being hit over the head with a giant penis many times, and undertaking some detailed comparisons, we have not been able to conclude if the sphinx in the London back garden is the actual movie prop used in A Clockwork Orange, or if it was perhaps cast from the mould of a larger batch. Either way we think you’ll agree the similarity is striking.

If you have any information on the sphinx sculpture please do email [email protected] or leave a comment below. 

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