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A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
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PROPERTY FROM A PENNSYLVANIA PRIVATE COLLECTION
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT

CIRCA 1ST CENTURY A.D.

Details
A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
CIRCA 1ST CENTURY A.D.
The Macedonian ruler depicted lifesized, with a muscular neck, the laryngeal prominence bulging, his head turned to his right, his forehead creased, the deep-set eyes with modeled lids, his small mouth with parted lips, his thick, leonine hair hair swept up at the forehead in characteristic anastole, the locks breaking to the left and right from the center, where a single thick lock rises up, with flame-like locks falling in front of both ears, and wavy locks descending along his neck
12 in. (30.4 cm.) high
Provenance
Antiquities, Sotheby's, London, 14 July 1986, lot 163.
with Andre Emmerich, New York, 1987.

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Lot Essay

The surviving portraits of Alexander the Great are noteworthy for the wide range of styles employed to portray his unique physiognomy. The treatment of his leonine hair, for example, can be long and wavy on some portraits, while others emphasize the characteristic anastole or cowlick. Some show the Macedonian ruler with a pronounced crease in the forehead, but this trait is not universally found on all portraits. Ancient writers tell us that Alexander issued an edict that only Lysippos should cast his image in bronze, only Apelles should paint his portrait, and only Pyrgoteles should engrave his image on gems (see D. Pandermalis, Alexander the Great, Treasures from an Epic Era of Hellenism, p. 15). Several portraits in bronze were commissioned, including the most famous, a standing figure of the Macedonian king holding a lance. While the original does not survive, Plutarch (de Alexandri Fortuna, 2.2) informs that his head had an upward tilt, giving him a sharp and penetrating look. Several small bronzes survive which seem to be inspired from this famous type (see the example at Harvard, and another at Stanford, nos. 287 and 501 in P. Moreno, Alessandro Magno, Immagini come storia).

Portraits of Alexander continued to be made throughout the Hellenistic period and beyond. The Roman love of important historical characters, coupled with their insatiable demand for ancient works of art, meant that portraits of Alexander continued to be popular well into the Roman Imperial period. The portrait presented here, based on the deep drill work for the hair, is a Roman copy of a Greek original from circa 330 B.C. It shares many details with the example now in Vienna, the “Schwarzenberg” Alexander, also a Roman copy (see pl. 128 in A. Stewart, Faces of Power, Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics). For the treatment of the anastole, the present head closely recalls the colossal portrait from Pergamon, now in Istanbul, a Hellenistic original of circa 175-150 B.C. (pl. 128 in Stewart, op. cit.). The turn of the head on our portrait also recalls the pose of Alexander with the lance, as seen on the small bronze versions of the now-lost original by Lysippos.

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