Kallos Gallery

A ROMAN MARBLE HEAD OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT AS HELIOS

CIRCA 2ND CENTURY AD

A ROMAN MARBLE HEAD OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT AS HELIOS

Height: 19.5 cm 

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 emphasise the characteristic anastole or cowlick. Some show the Macedonian ruler with a pronounced crease in the forehead as with this example.

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. For further discussion, see A. Stewart, Faces of Power, Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics. For a similar Roman period portrait of Alexander see Museu Nacional Arqueològic de Tarragona. Inv. no. 461.

One of the titles given to Alexander the Great was Helios, the sun god. This idealised portrait has Alexander’s characteristic wild thick hair, but it partially tied back with a band around his head. There are holes in the band where a metal radiate crown would have been attached, hence this piece’s name.

François Antonovich Collection, Paris before 1996
Christie’s London, October 2004, lot 98
with Royal-Athena Galleries, New York, 2005
The Jeff Hunter Collection, New York

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