Portrait of Alexander the Great

Object Details

Title:

Portrait of Alexander the Great

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Greek

Place(s):

Greece (Place created)

Date:

about 320 B.C.

Medium:

Parian marble

Dimensions:

29.1 x 25.9 x 27.5 cm (11 7/16 x 10 3/16 x 10 13/16 in.)

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Identified by his mass of leonine hair, his young idealized face, and his deep-set, upturned eyes, Alexander the Great was the first Greek ruler to understand and exploit the propagandistic powers of portraiture. Ancient literary sources say that he let only one sculptor carve his portrait: Lysippos, who created the standard Alexander portrait type. In general such portraits incorporated characteristics that had been used earlier for the representation of gods and heroes. This practice was part of Alexander's adoption of the Near Eastern idea of honoring rulers as if they were gods.

This life-size head, said to have been found in Megara, was part of a multi-figured group, which probably served as a funerary monument for some courtier who wanted to associate himself with the ruler. The Getty Museum has over thirty fragments of this group, which might have depicted a sacrificial scene. The participants include Alexander, his companion Hephaistion, a goddess, Herakles, a flute player, and several other figures, as well as animals and birds.

The head was re-carved in antiquity. The left ear was added, the right sideburn shortened, and the lower eyelids recut.

Provenance
- 1973

Robin Symes, Limited, English, 1977 - 2005 (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973.

Exhibitions
The Search for Alexander the Great (November 16, 1980 to May 16, 1982)
  • National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), November 16, 1980 to April 5, 1981
  • The Art Institute of Chicago, May 16 to September 7, 1981
  • Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 27, 1981 to January 10, 1982
  • M.H. De Young Memorial Museum, (San Francisco), February 20 to May 16, 1982
The Making of a Hero: Alexander the Great from Antiquity to the Renaissance (October 22, 1996 to January 5, 1997)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum, (Malibu), October 22, 1996 to January 5, 1997
Transforming Tradition: Ancient Motifs in Medieval Manuscripts (September 23 to November 30, 2003)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, (Los Angeles), September 23 to November 30, 2003
Bibliography

Lipsius, Frank. Alexander the Great. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1974. ill. p. 84.

Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum, rev. ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), p. 47; ill. p. 48.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jírí Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), pp. 29-30, ill.

Frel, Jirí. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum. A Checklist. Sculpture I. Greek Originals. Malibu: May 1979. p. 7, no. 20.

The Search for Alexander. An Exhibition. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 1980-April 5, 1981, et alia loca. New York: Graphics Society, 1980. color pl. 2, bottom; p. 101, no. 6, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Appointment Calendar. Malibu: 1981. week of February 16.

Vermeule, Cornelius C. Greek and Roman Sculpture in America. Berkeley and London: University of California Press, 1981. no. 101.

Frel, Jirí. Greek Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1981. pp. 68-69, 112, no. 19.

Stewart, Andrew. Review of "The Search for Alexander," The Art Bulletin 64, 2 (June 1982), pp. 321-326. Mentioned.

Frel, Jirí. "Ancient Repairs to Classical Sculpture at Malibu," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 12 (1984), pp. 73-92. p. 81, no. 23.

Giuliani, Luca. Bildnis und Botschaft. Hermeneutische Untersuchungen zur roemischen Republik. Frankfurt: 1986. pl. 34, p. 153 ff.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 32.

Smith, R.R.R. Hellenistic Royal Portraits. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988. p. 158, cat. no. 16; pl. 12, 6.

Stewart, Andrew. "Ethos and Pothos in a Portrait of Alexander the Great," Abstracts and Program Statements. College Art Association, 77th Annual Meeting, February 16-18, 1989. p. 60.

Ridgway, Brunilde S. Hellenistic Sculpture I. The Style of Circa 331-200 B.C. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1990. pp. 116, 134-35.

Stewart, Andrew. Greek Sculpture: An Exploration (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), p. 191, 192; fig. 576.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 3rd ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991), p. 24.

Stewart, Andrew. Faces of Power. Alexander's Image and Hellenistic Politics. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Appendix 5, "The Getty Fragments: A Catalogue," pp. 438-452. pp. 438-39, no. 1; color pl. 2; figs. 16, 146-149.

Grossman, Janet Burnett, and Elizabeth C. Teviotdale. The Making of a Hero. Alexander the Great from Antiquity to the Renaissance (exh. brochure, unpaged). The J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, October 22, 1996-January 5, 1997. ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 4th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997), p. 23.

Towne Markus, Elana. Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Antiquities. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1997) pp. 60-61.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. "Images of Alexander the Great in the Getty Museum," Studia Varia from the J. Paul Getty Museum 2. Occasional Papers on Antiquities 10 (2001), pp. 51-78. pp. 51-53, no. 1; figs. 1a-d.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 6th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2001), p. 23.

Pfrommer, Michael (with E. Towne Markus). Greek Gold from Hellenistic Egypt. Getty Museum Studies on Art, Los Angeles (2001) 8-9 fig. 7.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) p. 25.

Queyrel, Francois. Les portraits des Attalides. Fonction et representation (BEFAR 308). Athens 2003. p. 170 n. 227.

Foreman, Laura. Alexander the Conqueror: The Epic Story of the Warrior King (Cambridge, Da Capo Press, 2004) p. 16.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 7th ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), p. 5, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p. 25.

Ogden, Daniel. Alexander the Great: Myth, Genesis and Sexuality (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2011), p.157, figs. 8.1-8.2.

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