Hellenistic Marble Portrait of Arsinoe II (?)
Period: Hellenistic Greek, 3rd Cenutry B.C.
Dimensions: Height: 53 cm
Ex-German private collection, acquired in 1980
Female head, larger than life. The neck was prepared to be inserted into a statue. The triangular forehead is slightly domed. The almond-shaped eyes, deeply set, have an expression of haughty serenity. The cheeks are full, like those of a young woman. The mouth, half-opened, is small with thick lips. The chin is round and prominent. The neck, very long, presents the folds that the Ancients admired, known as the rings of Venus. The curly hair is centrally parted and coils into a low chignon. The woman wore a crown or a diadem (line carved in the hair) and earrings (holes in the lobes). Moreover, the incompleteness of the locks on top of the head suggests that a veil, made of another material, covered the head and the back of the neck, which was also left rough.
The dimensions of the head, the style, the crown (or the diadem) and the veil enables us to recognize in this portrait a queen of Ptolemaic Egypt, probably Arsinoe II. Daughter of the dynasty’s founder and of his wife, Bernice, born around 316 B.C., she married her brother, Ptolemy II. She played a great role in the politics of the kingdom, and her husband divinized her after her death, which occurred in 270 or 269 B.C. The portrait is to be dated between 250 and 200 B.C.
Salon des Antiquaires de Belgiques, January 2006
Sotheby’s New York, 11 December 2002, lot 41
BRUNELLE E., Die Bildnisse der Ptolemaerinnen, Francfort, 1976, pp. 10-29.
KYRIELEIS H., Bildnisse der Ptolemaer, Berlin, 1975, pp. 78-94.
SMITH R. R. R., Hellenistic Royal Portraits, Oxford, 1988, p. 86ss. and 144ss.