The J. Paul Getty Museum

Portrait of Hephaistion

Object Details


Portrait of Hephaistion






Greece (Place Created)


about 320 B.C.



Object Number:



26 × 20.5 × 23.3 cm (10 1/4 × 8 1/16 × 9 3/16 in.)

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Object Description

The son of a noble Macedonian family, Hephaistion was the beloved companion of Alexander the Great. Together since boyhood, Hephaistion fought alongside Alexander as he created his great empire. When Hephaistion died in Persia in 324 B.C., Alexander mourned him extravagantly. He was given a royal funeral and Alexander ordered the cities of Greece to worship Hephaistion as a hero.

This head of Hephaistion, broken from a full-length statue, was originally part of a multi-figured group, which might have depicted a sacrificial scene. The J. Paul Getty Museum has more than thirty fragments of this group. The participants include Alexander, Hephaistion, a goddess, Herakles, a flute player, and several other figures, as well as animals and birds. This group may have served as a funerary monument for some nobleman who wanted to associate himself with Alexander, or it might be a monument erected in response to Alexander's call for the creation of a hero cult.

The appearance of this head has changed over time. A metal ribbon or diadem once circled the head, although only a shallow groove remains today. The head was also re-carved in antiquity, with the hair shortened and the lower eyelids altered.

- 1973

Robin Symes, Limited, founded 1977, dissolved 2005 (London, England), by partial credit and partial purchase, sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973.

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
Macedonia, Kingdom of Alexander the Great (May 7 to September 19, 1993)
  • Société du Palais de la Civilisation (Montréal), May 7 to September 19, 1993
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

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

Fredericksen, Burton B., ed. The J. Paul Getty Museum: Greek and Roman Antiquities, Western European Paintings, French Decorative Arts of the Eighteenth Century (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1975), p. 27.

Frel, Jiri, Burton Fredericksen, and Gillian Wilson. The J. Paul Getty Museum Guidebook. Rev. ed. (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), p. 47.

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Frel, Jiří. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum: A Checklist; Sculpture I: Greek Originals (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1979), p. 7, no. 21.

The Search for Alexander. An Exhibition. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 1980-April 5, 1981; Art Institute of Chicago, May 14-September 7, 1981; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, October 23, 1981-January 10, 1982; Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco: M. H. de Young Memorial Museum, February 19-May 16, 1982. New York Graphics Society: 1980, color pl. 2, top; pp. 104-5, no. 13.

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Smith, R. R. R. Hellenistic Royal Portraits (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 158, cat. no. 16; pl. 12, 5.

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Queyrel, Francois. Les portraits des Attalides: Fonction et représentation. BEFAR 308 (Athens: École francaise d'Athènes, 2003), p. 170, n. 227.

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

Picón, Carlos A. and Seán Hemingway, eds. Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2016), pp. 111-112, no. 13b, ill., entry by Jens M. Daehner.