APPLIQUE OF ALEXANDER THE GREAT
SECOND HALF 4TH CENTURY B.C.
10 cm high
Private Collection, Switzerland, since early 1970s
D. Andrianou, “Chairs, Beds, and Tables: Evidence for Furnished Interiors in Hellenistic Greece”, Hesperia, 75 (2006), pp. 219-66.
B. Barr-Sharar, The Hellenistic and Early Imperial Decorative Bust, Mainz, 1987.
Of exceptionally fine quality, the present bronze applique well exemplifies luxury types of “fulcrum fittings”, or decorative bronze components adorning Greek, Hellenistic and Roman couches, which could be cast in the round or in low relief. The striking pose, seemingly capturing a figure in movement, is typical of Hellenistic sculpture.
The arresting features recall portraits of Alexander the Great, and the pose has antecedents in sculptures such as the Hellenistic Head of Dying Alexander in the Uffizi, Florence (fig. 1). Idealised portraits of great men and rules disguised as gods or semi-gods were common throughout antiquity, and the present applique could well represent Alexander as Dionysus.
A precedent in ornamental bronzes is for instance found on an applique of Ptolemy I Soter, the Macedonian Greek general under Alexander the Great which, dated to the 3rd Century B.C., is now in The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore (fig. 2).
(TO SEE COMPARATIVE IMAGES, PLEASE DOWNLOAD FACTSHEET)