Although unable to identify the queen with certainty, this most closely resembles the portraits of Arsinoe II (circa 270 B.C.) from Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum der Universitat, B284; see exhibition catalogue, Cleopatra’s Egypt, The Brooklyn Museum, 1988-89, cat. nos. 64-66.
Cf. lot 45, The ‘Per-neb’ Collection (Part I), Highly Important Egyptian Antiquities, Christie’s London, 7 December 1992.
The bust of a queen, possibly Arsinoe II, with hair parted in the middle and waving back, with sensitively carved features. The head carved separately to be inserted into the bust.
The Ancient Greeks referred to an object that gleamed as “μαρμαίρω”, where the word “marble” originates from. This crystalline marble statue does in fact gleam from the inlaid crystals within the pure white stone. This bust, or a statue of a person from chest-up, is in the round, where one can walk around the piece and see humanistic detail creating a highly naturalistic effect. This realistic statue work is highly representative of the Hellenistic artistic preference of Ancient Greece. This is due to the Hellenistic influence brought upon Egypt during the 3<sup>rd</sup> Century B.C through the 1<sup>st</sup> Century B.C under the Ptolemaic reign. Although the Ptolemaic Dynasty was considered an Egyptian power, it was in fact a Hellenistic Empire, the rulers were Greek, and they took on Egyptian religious beliefs to be recognized as rulers and assimilate into the culture to create an eclectic but Greek-dominated world. This cultural diffusion is conveyed through art pieces such as this, where one can notice Hellenistic design from a piece originating from Egypt.
While observing the piece, one can notice the “chignon” hairstyle of the woman, where the part in her hair is centered and the “kome”, or long hair, is pinned softly in a back bun. This hairstyle is characteristic of Ancient Greece from the Classical Period and was continued in use throughout the centuries. Furthermore, the woman seems to be wearing a “peplos” or long-folded garment typically worn by women of Ancient Greece, again bringing focus to the eclecticism of Egypt at this time. The features are idealized, where there seems to be no imperfection to the face and a soft facial expression to be sure to maintain a smooth and perfect appearance. One can notice a small hole by the ear of the bust, assuming a semi-precious stone would be inlaid into the spot as jewelry. The reference to jewelry directs attention to the idea that the women may be from an upper class status and perhaps Arsinoe II, herself.
The age of Hellenistic art is one characterized by a strong sense of historical importance for it was at this time that there was an influx of museums and libraries being built. Along with the initial Egyptian tradition of depicting royalty; art within the Ptolemaic region did just the same. Arsinoe II, 316 B.C until 260 B.C, was the co-ruler of Egypt along side her brother Ptolemy II Philadelphius. “Φιλάδελφος” is what the Greeks referred to as “sibling-loving”, which was a common practice at the time to keep the ruling class within the family. Arsinoe herself was a respected leader and eventually even had a religious cult worshiped on her behalf, a common comparison for Egyptians to identify their rulers as deities. Arsinoe II was then connected to Aphrodite due to her links to the sea-war force led by the Ptolemaic power.
Barbantani, Silvia. “Goddess of Love and Mistress of the Sea. Notes on a Hellenistic Hymn to Arsinoe-Aphrodite.” <em>Ancient Society 35</em> (2005): 135-65. Print.