Ptolemy I (305 - 283) and colossal head of  Ptolemy VI

  • Upon Alexander the Great’s death in 232 B.C.E., his realm was divided among his generals. Egypt went to Ptolemy, whose reign and succession of ancestors also named Ptolemy led to the name ‘Ptolemaic’.
  • Ptolemaic kings were great commissioners of art and architecture. They knew to keep styles distinct - despite the mingling of Greek and Egyptian cultures, the the styles rarely bled into one another, with Egyptian art remaining especially intact.
  • The depiction of images of royals or important figures illustrates the difference in Greek style. On the left is a statue of Ptolemy I - he is handsome and austere, looking strong-willed and powerful. There is movement in his likeness, and his gaze peers into the distance above the viewer. His features appear to have been drawn from life, as they display unique characteristics, such as his large nose and round eyes. He is clean-shaven, in keeping with the style set by Alexander the Great.
  • The right-hand statue of Ptolemy VI is, in contrast, distinctly Egyptian. He stares straight ahead, his face expressionless and symmetrical. On his head is an Egyptian headdress. The statue appears to be conveying a symbol, rather than a likeness.