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    Sale 7609

    Important Old Master & British Pictures Evening Sale

    8 July 2008, London, King Street

  • Lot 24

    Johann Georg Platzer (St. Paul in Eppan, nr. Meran 1704-1761 St. Michael in Eppan)

    The Amazon Queen, Thalestris, in the camp of Alexander the Great

    Price Realised  

    Johann Georg Platzer (St. Paul in Eppan, nr. Meran 1704-1761 St. Michael in Eppan)
    The Amazon Queen, Thalestris, in the camp of Alexander the Great
    oil on copper
    22 3/8 x 32 3/8 in. (56.9 x 82.4 cm.)


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    This exquisitely painted copper depicts the meeting between Thalestris, Queen of the Amazons, and Alexander the Great at Hycrania in 330 BC. The sources for Alexander's reign disagree over both the details and the veracity of this encounter. The story appears in the Vulgate tradition, whose ultimate source is the lost work of Cleitarchus. The most comprehensive account of this episode is that given by Quintus Curtius Rufus in his History of Alexander. He describes how the Queen travelled with a guard of three hundred warriors from their homeland on the banks of the river Thermodon to the southeastern shores of the Caspian, where Alexander was on campaign. Alexander received the Queen and asked her the purpose of her visit, whereupon Thalestris explained that she had come with the intention of conceiving a child by him. The child of such a union would, she insisted, make a worthy heir for his empire. In Curtius' account Alexander considered the proposition and entertained Thalestris for thirteen days, after which she returned home, though sadly unsuccessful in her quest (Book VI, v, 25-32).

    The same story is also recorded in Diodorus' Universal History (Book XVII, 77, 1-3), although other historians, were at pains to deny such an encounter ever took place. Arrian was doubtful about the very existence of the Amazons, and stated that even if they did arrive at Alexander's camp while he was campaigning, he was sure that they would have been turned away for fear of being a distraction to the men (The Campaigns of Alexander, Book VII, xiii, 2-6). Plutarch was also sceptical of this episode and treated the story as no more than a salacious invention by a variety of ill-informed historians (The Life of Alexander, ch. 46, 1-2).

    Whatever its historical status, the story proved popular with later artists, and Platzer here imbues the scene with a degree of grandeur, depicting the moment when Alexander receives the Queen outside his elegant tent, surrounded by his retinue, with arms and armour scattered in the foreground. She stands confidently in the centre of the composition, attended by only a few of her three-hundred-strong bodyguard, and explains the purpose of her visit to a somewhat impassive Alexander. Another version of the same subject is in the Schlesisches Museum der bildenden Künste, Breslau.

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    Provenance

    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 11 December 1985, lot 29.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 8 July 1987, lot 79.
    Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 7 December 1988, lot 148.