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Head of a queen

Head of a queen
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk

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Greco-Roman Antiquities

Head of a queen

Category:
Sculpture in the round, heads / masks
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period, Ptolemaic Period (323-31 BCE)
Provenance:
Lower Egypt, Alexandria, El Shatby, Bibliotheca Alexandrina Site
Material(s):
Rock, limestone
Height:
29 cm;
Width:
17 cm;
Depth:
18 cm
Hall:
Greco-Roman Antiquities


Description

Head of Queen Berenice the Second bearing the Hellenistic Baroque features: the protruding eyes that gaze directly forward and the face expressing a mood of sadness. The hair is styled in the form of a diadem surrounding her head.

Berenice II

Berenice II, " The Benefactor ", queen of Egypt and the daughter of Magas, king of Cyrene was the wife of Ptolemy III Euergetes. Her life was legendary, just like Greek Epics. At the time when she was engaged to Ptolemy III, her mother married her off to the Macedonian Demetrius the Fair, and then proceeded to have an affair with her son in law. Berenice had Demetrius killed in her mother's boudoir, but forgave her mother. Ptolemy III married her on the accession in 246 B.C. They jointly founded the Serapeum in Alexandria, as well as temples in the southern part of the country such as Edfu temple.

She ruled Egypt during the war led by her husband against the Syrian king Antiochus III, and exhorted poets to immortalize her husband's victory. Poets such as Callimachus extolled her beauty. Who wrote a poem named “The lock of Berenice” on praise of her, it was later translated by Catullus into Latin.

The legend tells that Berenice, hoping for her husband's safe return from his campaign, cut a lock of her hair and dedicated it to the temple of the goddess Aphrodite. This lock disappeared from the temple and was said to have become a star which, accordingly, bore the name of the Queen. The poem of “Callimachus” tells that legendary story with much honor and aggrandizement to the Queen.

After Ptolemy III′s death she ruled jointly with her son Ptolemy  IV, but she was murdered probably with his connivance. 

Hellenistic Baroque Style

During the last half of the Hellenistic period, sculptors developed a style of sculpture that has come to be known as Hellenistic Baroque. The sculptures from this period are more realistic and expressive than any that had come earlier. In a style characterized by emotion. Robes appear to swirl adding, in this way, an aesthetic touch to the work of art, bodies seam to twist in pain and faces show extreme distress.


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

References
  • Zahi Hawass, ed., Bibliotheca Alexandrina: The Archaeology Museum (Cairo: The Supreme Council of Antiquities, 2002): 55, 57.
  • Günther Hölbl, A History of Ptolemaic Empire, translated by Tina Saavedra (London: Routledge, 2001).
  • Carroll Moulton, ed., “Greek Epic”, in Ancient Greece and Rome: An Encyclopedia for Students, vol. 2 (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1998).
  • Carroll Moulton, ed., “Hellenistic Period”, in Ancient Greece and Rome: An Encyclopedia for Students, vol. 4 (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Macmillan, 1998).
  • François Queyrel and Ahmed Abd El-Fattah, “Sculptures de la Bibliotheca Alexandrina”, in Alexandrina 2, edited by Jean-Yves Empereur, Études alexandrines 6 (Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2002).
  • Mona Serry, ed., Bibliotheca Alexandrina: Antiquities Museum, introduction by Ismail Serageldin (Alexandria: Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Antiquities Museum, 2015): 148-149, 323.
  • Graham Speake, ed., “Berenice II”, in A Dictionary of Ancient History, Blackwell History Dictionaries (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1994).
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