Napoleon viewing noseless Sphinx, by Jean-Leon Gerome, 1867.
Despite numerous theories, the fate of the Sphinx’s nose remains a mystery. In a brief article on HeritageKey.com, author Prad Patel compiles some evidence in the form of period drawings and offers some speculation. While centuries of erosion usually is identified as the culprit, his article states:
In a previous Heritage Key article, “Riddle of the Sphinx,” Robert Cook wrote about the legend that Napoleon's troops used the Sphinx's nose as target practice during the French invasion of Egypt in 1798. But did they really have such a disregard for thousands of years of history that they purposefully destroyed the nose of the Great Sphinx?
It's a bit of a confusing mystery, mainly because of the poetic license employed by some of those who knew how to draw back in the 18th century. It wasn't so much a case of there being a nose or not, but that the artists felt the Sphinx would be much more attractive and exotic to those viewing the works back in Europe if the monument didn't have a ruined nose.
Check out the article for its links to artwork and more speculation on why the nose is missing.
Click here for the complete article.
Intact nose in 1698 drawing by Cornelis de Brujin.