An Early/Mid 20thC Oversized Painted Plaster Portrait Bust of Alexander the Great

Origin: English
Period: Early 20thC
Provenance: Unknown
Date: c.1920-40
Width: 11”
Depth: 13”
Height: 20” (all at extremities)

The very decorative painted plaster portrait bust of Alexander the Great, in oversized form, directly copied from the same of the Hellenistic Age (4th-1st century B.C.), shown in his prime years being clean shaven and with flowing hair, the whole surviving from the second quarter of the twentieth century.

The bust has a very decorative appearance with the painted surface evocatively worn away in many areas. There is some other chipping and discolouration as per the photographs and some decompression to one side of the nose. He proves stable and solid.

Alexander III the Great, the King of Macedonia and conqueror of the Persian Empire is considered one of the greatest military geniuses of all times. He was inspiration for later conquerors such as Hannibal the Carthaginian, the Romans Pompey and Caesar, and Napoleon. Alexander was born in 356 BC in Pella, the ancient capital of Macedonia.

Literary sources claim that Alexander selected only a few artists to produce his image. Famous names, such as the sculptor Lysippos and the painter Apelles, were associated with Alexander's portraiture. None of the famous images have been identified, but a vast array of sculptures in different materials, portraits on gemstones and coins survive. These were produced mostly long after Alexander's death, and while the portraits follow similar general characteristics, they also vary in style. A relatively large number of portraits of Alexander have been found in Egypt, ranging in date from Hellenistic to Roman.

Alexander was always shown clean-shaven, which was an innovation: all previous portraits of Greek statesmen or rulers had beards. This royal fashion lasted for almost five hundred years and almost all of the Hellenistic kings and Roman emperors until Hadrian were portrayed beardless. Alexander was the first king to wear the royal diadem, a band of cloth tied around the hair that was to become the symbol of Hellenistic kingship. His portrait types were utilised and adapted for images of later rulers. Earlier portraits of Alexander tend to appear more heroic and mature, while posthumous portraits, like this example, portray Alexander as a more youthful, god-like character. He has longer hair, a more dynamic twist of the head and a slight upward gaze; in fact, more like the description of Alexander in literary sources.

Oversized grandeur, much like the man himself.