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HOME : Near Eastern Art : Bactrian Art : Silver Alexander the Great medallion
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Silver Alexander the Great medallion - OF.054
Origin: Central Asia
Dimensions: 3" (7.6cm) wide
Collection: Near Eastern
Medium: Silver


Additional Information: f
£3,000.00
Location: Great Britain
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Description
Embossed medallion with head of Alexander the Great. Oval-shaped clean-shaven face with heavy lidded eyes, small round slightly parted mouth, ample prominent forehead, narrow square slightly jutting jaw. Alexander is portrayed frontally, the head encircled by a series of flame-shaped elements, reminiscent of the lion’s head Alexander is represented wearing, when posing as a juvenile Hercules on his silver tetradrachms. The semicircular protruding elements on either side of the skull could be then interpreted as either the two stylised horns of a deified Alexander as Zeus Ammon, or as the two extremely stylised ears of the lion’s head or finally as two equally stylised curls of hair. All surviving portraits of Alexander preserve these very characteristic locks of hair above the forehead, known as “anastole”. The outer appearance of Alexander was best expressed by the statues of him made by Lysippus, and it was by this sculptor alone that Alexander himself thought it fit that he should be modelled, as he alone was able to preserve in marble “his manly and leonine quality”, as Plutarch quotes. The word "leonine" is of great interest. Ancient physiognomic theories postulated that a person’s character could be determined by their physical characteristics. With the words of Plutarch in mind, it is interesting to refer a book titled Physiognomonica by an author known as the Pseudo-Aristotle, wherein comes the following passage:” . . . the lion of all animals seems to have the most perfect share of the male type...its face is square, not too bony, the upper jaw not overhanging but equally balanced with the lower jaw...bright, deep-set eyes, neither very round nor very narrow, of moderate size, a large eyebrow, square forehead, rather hollow from the center...Above the forehead, hair sloping outwards and like bristles. . . .” If, in fact, Alexander deliberately sought to have his image imbued with leonine qualities, then this indicates that he or his artists ascribed to the above physiognomic theory, at least with respect to his portraiture. His mane of hair and the locks above his forehead were possibly considered as leonine traits. Furthermore, the Physiognomonica corroborates the idea that the lion embodies the perfect male type. Building upon his father's military success, Alexander III (Alexander the Great, 336-323 BC) set about the conquest of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. By the time of his death at the age of 31, he ruled over a tremendous expansion of territory from Greece to Afghanistan, conquered over just eight years. His silver coins, with the head of himself as Herakles on one side and a seated figure of Zeus on the other, also became one of the staple coinages of the Greek world, widely imitated within the empire he had forged. Following his death in 323 BC Alexander’s generals divided his vast empire between themselves. In the period of turmoil that followed, the image of the deified Alexander continued playing a significant part, his Successors attempting to claim legitimacy of rule through association with him, as his heirs. As was expected, they all naturally failed. It has been impossible for them to impersonate someone who was king, commander, politician, scholar and explorer at the same time, leading his army a further 11,000 miles, founding over 70 cities and creating an empire that stretched across three continents, covering around two million square miles. - (OF.054)

 

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