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Statue of a Ptolemaic queen

Statue of a Ptolemaic queen
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

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Statue of a Ptolemaic queen

Category:
Sculpture in the round, statues, human / gods and goddesses statues, headless statues
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Ptolemaic Period, 3rd cent. BCE
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, Abukir, Canopus (Excavations of the year 2000)
Material(s):
Rock, granite, black granite
Height:
150 cm;
Width:
55 cm;
Depth:
28 cm
This artifact is not currently displayed. The statue is among the collection chosen for the exhibition “Osiris, Egypt’s Sunken Mysteries which is hosted by Museum Rietberg (Zürich, Switzerland) from 10 February to 13 August 2017.


Description

A statue of a Ptolemaic queen which must have been slightly larger than life size. On the right breast, as on numerous other statues of Ptolemaic rulers, is a knot that joins the ends of the shawl that the woman wears. Since the wives and mothers of the heir to power tended to be compared with Isis, sister-wife of Osiris and mother of Horus, scholars frequently referred to that knot as the "Isis knot". Thus the statue is most probably one of the queens of the Ptolemaic dynasty.
The dress provides more clues about the identity of the subject: the handling of fabric recalls the marble work of Hellenistic artists showing Aphrodite in "wet drapery". The folds actually undress the figure more than they dress it. According to the legend, Aphrodite was born from the foaming seas on the south coast of Cypress. One is immediately reminded of the queen who was considered as the earthly manifestation of Aphrodite – Arsinoë II, wife of Ptolemy II.

Arsinoë II

Arsinoë II was the Daughter of Ptolemy I from Berenice I, and the sister and wife of Ptolemy II. She was a mature woman of experience and intelligence and had great power as sister, queen, and co-regent. After the First Syrian War, won largely through her diplomatic skills, she was granted extraordinary honors and was deified as Arsinoë "Philadelphus" (She who loves her brother). She also formed around her a notable coterie of statesmen and men of letters. She was worshipped as a goddess before or after her death, and her ideas on foreign policy strongly influenced Ptolemy II.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Bowder, Diana ed. Who Was Who in the Greek World. Oxford: Phaidon, 1982.
  • Goddio, Franck ed. Egypt's Sunken Treasures. Martin-Gropius Bau, Berlin: 13 May–4 September 2006. Munich: Prestel, 2006.
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