Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Marble head of a Ptolemaic queen

ca. 270–250 B.C.
H. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Stone Sculpture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift, The Bothmer Purchase Fund, Malcolm Hewitt Wiener, The Concordia Foundation and Christos G. Bastis Gifts and Marguerite and Frank A. Cosgrove Jr. Fund, 2002
Accession Number:
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 162
Acquired in Egypt by George Baldwin, British Consul-General 1785–96

This monumental head gives an impression of sovereign calm and power, even though the veil that once covered the top and back of the head is now missing. Although the features are cast in a thoroughly classical style typical of the late fourth century B.C., the face is stamped with enough individuality to identify it as a portrait. In all probability, it represents a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, that succession of Macedonian Greeks who ruled Egypt from the death of Alexander the Great in 323 B.C. until the annexation of Egypt by Rome and the suicide of Cleopatra VII in 30 B.C. Most recently, the head has been identified as Arsinoe II, who ruled together with her brother, Ptolemy II, from 278 B.C. until her death in 270 B.C. Not only was the queen part of a dynastic ruler cult during her life, she was also transformed into an independent deity by her brother after her death. She was worshiped as an Egyptian goddess in association with Isis and also separately as a Greek goddess, with her own sanctuaries and festivals. This strongly idealized head, which resembles classical images of Hera and Demeter, was probably associated with the latter cult.
#1099. Marble head of a Ptolemaic queen
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Acquired in Egypt by George Baldwin, British consul-general 1785-96
The Society of Dilettanti. 1809–1835. Specimens of Ancient Sculpture: Ægyptian, Etruscan, Greek and Roman, selected from different collections in Great Britain, Vol. 2. p. 67, pl. 39, London: T. Payne and J. White.

Vermeule, Cornelius and Dietrich von Bothmer. 1956. "Notes on a New Edition of Michaelis: Ancient Marbles in Great Britain. Part 2." American Journal of Archaeology, 60(4): p. 334.

Kyrieleis, Helmut. 1975. Bildnisse der Ptolemäer. no. J9, pl. 78: 1–4, Berlin: Mann.

Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co. 1976. Egyptian, Middle Eastern, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan and South-east Asian art, African, Oceanic, American Indian and pre-Columbian Art. July 12–13, 1976. lot 520.

Vermeule, Cornelius. July-August 1977. "Vita: Berenike II. Liberated Queen: ca. 273-221 B.C." Harvard Magazine, : pp. 34–35.

Vermeule, Cornelius. 1978–1979. "Ideal 'Portraiture' at the Outset of the Hellenistic Age." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal, 6/7: no. 12, pp. 100–1.

Picón, Carlos A. and Joan R. Mertens. 2002. "Recent Acquisitions: A Selection 2001–2002: Ancient World." Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 60(2): p. 8.

Metropolitan Museum of Art. 2002. "One Hundred Thirty-second Annual Report of the Trustees for the Fiscal Year July 1, 2001 through June 30, 2002." Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 132: p. 19.

Picón, Carlos A. 2007. Art of the Classical World in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece, Cyprus, Etruria, Rome. no. 220, pp. 190, 448, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Casagrande-Kim, Roberta. 2014. When the Greeks Ruled Egypt: From Alexander to Cleopatra cat. 68, pp. 45–6, 97, fig. 3.1, Princeton and Oxford: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University.

Zanker, Paul. 2016. Roman Portraits: Sculptures in Stone and Bronze in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. no. 2, pp. vi, 13, 18–19, New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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