Thursday, May 31, 2007

Head of Alexander

Head of Alexander, Lysippean tradition c, 200

This is a portrait of Alexander the Great. One of his generals is said to have done a double take when he passed the statue, after Alexander's death. The dreamy look, with the eyes cast upward and the mouth slightly open, was widely copied.

Alexander, of course, was the most significant, world-changing leader of the Classical world. From Macedonia, just north of Greece, he went on to conquer most of the known world. One of his teachers was Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher and natural scientist, and Alexander was a strong proponent of Hellenic (Greek) culture. Upon his death his generals divided up the empire, most of which continued with the sort of Greek traditions and culture Alexander had brought to them. This is when the Hellenic becomes the Hellenistic.

This is probably one of the first portraits we possess. The head of Themistokles, from several centuries before, seems very much like a portrait, so this would not be the first. From this piece we get a sense of Alexander's character or temperament.