The Lysippus bust of Alexander the Great

Roger Pearse | 5/27/2019 | Staff
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The majority of ancient depictions of Alexander the Great show a rather effeminate-looking youth. However there is another portrait which is said to be a Roman copy of a bronze made by Lysippus, Alexander’s personal sculptor. Three photographs of this, seemingly gathered from the web, were posted on Twitter this morning by @HellenisticPod here. (Click on each image for a larger size).

These very stocky depictions make much more sense to modern eyes. The young Alexander had spent his whole life in military exercise and physical training!

Item

What do we know about this item?

The item is a herm, a pillar ending in the head of a man. It is held at the Louvre, which has a page on it:

Modern - Latin - Inscription - Effigy - Alexander

Modern Latin inscription: “This effigy of Alexander the Great, discovered in 1779 (in the Piso villa) at Tivoli, was restored by Joseph Nicolas Azara.”

Thanks to its original antique inscription, this figure can be definitely identified as Alexander the Great, son of Philip II of Macedon. The leonine hair brushed up from the forehead is characteristic of portraits of the Macedonian sovereign. The work is a copy of the head of a work from 330 BC attributed to Lysippos – doubtless the statue of Alexander with a bronze lance mentioned by Plutarch (Moralia, 360 D). The Louvre’s small bronze, Br 370, is another copy of the same work.

Bust - Part - Gallery - Herms - Portraits

This bust was part of a gallery of herms featuring portraits of famous men, unearthed in 1779 during an excavation at Tivoli organized by Joseph Nicolas Azara, the Spanish ambassador to the Holy See and, later, to France. For a time, this was the only known portrait of Alexander the Great; the value and significance of Azara’s gift of it to Napoleon Bonaparte was, then, considerable.

This bust was badly damaged during its time underground, and has been extensively...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Roger Pearse
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