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Currently on view at: Getty Villa, Gallery 111, The Hellenistic World
Egypt (Place Created)
Gold, garnet, and glass paste
21.6 × 7.9 × 7.6 cm, 127.3 g (8 1/2 × 3 1/8 × 3 in., 0.2806 lb.)
This elaborate gold hairnet is one of the few surviving from antiquity (the contemporary “Schimmel” hairnet in the Metropolitan Museum, New York, inv. no. 1987.220, is another) and is an example of the extraordinary level of achievement that was possible for goldsmiths in the 3rd century BC. It is considered to have been made in the same goldsmith’s workshop, probably in Alexandria, Egypt, as the Diadem. The hairnet consists of four elements: the central medallion, the tassels and chains, the net, and the circular clasp. Made to enclose a gathered bun of hair at the back of the head, the fabrication of the hairnet is remarkable for the quality of its execution. The medallion consists of a central repoussé bust of Aphrodite with Eros clinging to the drapery on her left shoulder. The Ptolemaic queens often presented themselves as descendants of Aphrodite; here, the goddess’s features and hairstyle are similar to those of Queen Arsinoe II (ca. 316 – ca. 270 BC). Two concentric bands of filigree separated by rows of beads surround the center. The innermost band consists of a running pattern of framed acanthus leaves (identical to the inner frieze on the Schimmel hairnet noted above); the outer band is filigreed with a step pattern perhaps once inlaid with enamel, now lost. Running filigree as used here, constructed from lengths of wire rather than short pieces connected together, can also be seen on the Diadem and indicates the work of a master gold-smith. Garnet and gold beaded tassels dangle from the medallion and clasp. The net is comprised of bands of gold spool beads linked by tiny filigreed chains, their intersecting points articulated with tiny masks of Dionysos and actors. The circular clasp is embellished with a large Herakles knot, floral tendrils, ivy leaves, and berries.
The association of Arsinoe II with Aphrodite on the hairnet finds parallels on other items in the Assemblage of Ptolemaic Gold Jewelry, such as the identification of Tyche/Fortuna with Arsinoe II on the carnelian ring. Commonalities between the materials and the workmanship of many objects in this group indicate they were made by Greek goldsmiths working in more than one workshop in Alexandria, Egypt, and were created to be worn as an ensemble. While a royal context can be ascribed to the group, the association cannot be extended to the royals themselves. It therefore seems possible that the original owner was an elite of the exclusive circle of dynastic princesses, who, ornamented in her golden finery, served the queen in one of the royal cults devoted to her worship.
A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman (October 13, 1994 to April 23, 1995)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), October 13, 1994 to January 15, 1995
- The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland), February 14 to April 23, 1995
Beyond Beauty: Antiquities as Evidence (December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 16, 1997 to January 17, 1999
Ancient Art from the Permanent Collection (March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004)
- The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), March 16, 1999 to May 23, 2004
Pergamon and the Art of the Hellenistic Kingdoms (April 11 to July 17, 2016)
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), April 11 to July 17, 2016
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Sacks, David. Encyclopedia of the Ancient Greek World (New York: Facts on File, 2005), p. 138, ill.
Jackson, Monica M. Hellenistic Gold Eros Jewellery: Technique, Style and Chronology (Oxford: Archaeopress/BAR International Series, 2006), p. 126.
Lapatin, Kenneth. Luxus: The Sumptuous Arts of Greece and Rome (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2015), pp. 75, 232, pl. 40.
Picon, Carlos, and Sean Hemmingway, eds. Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 225-226, no. 159a, ill., entry by Mary Louise Hart.