Hellenistic Marble Head of Alexander the Great

SKU LM.001
Circa

323 BC to 31 BC

Dimensions

9.5″ (24.1cm) high

Medium

Marble

Origin

Greece

Gallery Location

UK


 

The Macedonian ruler is here depicted in-the-round, with elongated muscular neck and head tilted left. His forehead is creased and deep-set eyes upturned; narrow, triangular nose and small mouth with lips slightly parted. Full head of thick curls styled in characteristic anastole, whereby hair is brushed up from the forehead and arranged wreath-like around the face. Alexander was the first ruler to understand and exploit the propagandistic powers of portraiture. It was the Lysippus – the only sculptor authorised to make his image – that created the standard Alexander portrait that inspired all Hellenistic royal portraiture thereafter. Alexander’s young, idealised face, mass of leonine hair, upturned eyes, tilt of the head and melting glance constitute a unique physiognomy that allows us to identify the young monarch. We are told expressly by Plutarch (De Alexandri Magni Fortuna et Virtute ii. 2 and Alexander 4.1) that Lysippus not only imitated the physical likeness of Alexander – the turning of the neck which was slightly bent to the left and the softness, brightness, and melting glance of his eyes – but did not fail to convey the manliness and lion-like fierceness of his countenance. Alexander considered it only proper that Lysippus alone produce the image we see before us here which was copied unbounded throughout the Hellenistic period and thereafter. Closely bound up with the nature of Alexander himself, it is the image Alexander considered it proper for his subjects and us to retain in our minds. Perhaps this piece formed part of the funerary sculptural retinue of an individual wanted to associate himself with Alexander. Parallels exist on display in J. Paul Getty Museum and an example from Pergamon can be seen at Istanbul Archaeological centre.

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