MONUMENTAL HEAD OF A GODDESS OR A QUEEN

Ancient Greek World

Greek, Late Classical –Early Hellenistic, 4th - 3rd century B.C. Marble H: 48.3 cm (19.01 in) (no restorations) Ex- Laura Williamina Hohenlohe-Langenburg-Gleichen, Countess von Gleichen (1833-1912) private collection, England Published in BOULANGER A., Tête féminine provenant d´Égypte, in Revue archéologique 19, 1912, pp. 110ff, figs. 1-3

This stunning and well preserved head of a goddess belonged to a colossal statue. Judging upon the roughly modeled shape of the part below the neck, the head was inserted into the cavity on the upper part of the torso. In ancient Greek practice, the monumental scale dictated the process of piecing, when the individual parts were carved separately. This is also seen from the back, its oblique narrow shape and flat surface were obviously prepared for the connection with another part of the head and neck, most probably covered by the veil (as exemplified in an over-life size honorific statue from Magnesia ad Maeandrum; the face and neck were carved separately and inserted into a statue with the mantle draped as a veil over the head).

The head was acquired (and presumably found) in Egypt, and there is a good deal to think that it was created there in the ancient time. As Egypt does not have its own white marble quarries, it was the necessity to use

any available block of marble. It well could be that the figure and the drapery were executed in a stone of different type and color (limestone or veined marble), thus producing a strong decorative effect. However, one cannot exclude the possibility that the sculpture was brought to Egypt from Greece.

The head on a long neck is slightly turned to her right. It has a perfect oval shape and a rather wide face with the idealized features: the bow-shaped lips, a slightly upturned nose merging into finely arched brows, and the large eyes outlined by heavy eyelids. The expression of the face is tranquil and solemn.

Her wavy hair is parted in the center and arranged along the forehead line and then rolled up almost covering the ears. Such a fashion and especially the considerable volume of hair at the ears find the closest parallels in the female representations in the Attic sculpture of the 4th century B.C. The proportions of the face and its rather square shape are also related to the models typical to the Late Classical Attic female figures.

The head was surmounted by a carved diadem as it is indicated by its remains above the hair. The absence of any other attribute and the garment does not let to identify the image more precisely, which could be a goddess or a Ptolemaic queen. The Classical tradition had strong influence upon the artistic preferences of the Early Hellenistic rulers in Egypt.

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Provenance
Ex- Laura Williamina Hohenlohe-Langenburg-Gleichen, Countess von Gleichen (1833-1912) private collection, England; Ex- US private collection, after 1912; Ex- Jonas Senter (1917-2001) private collection, New York, acquired at auction in the 1970s; Sotheby´s, New York, December 9th, 2003, no. 11, illus.; Ex- US private collection.
Literature
BOULANGER A., Tête féminine provenant d´Égypte, in Revue archéologique 19, 1912, pp. 110ff, figs. 1-3; LIPPOLD G., ed., Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Skulpturen, nos. 5047–5048.

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Phoenix Ancient Art

"Ancient Art"

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