Bust of a pharaoh

Hellenistic Period (early Ptolemaic Dynasty)
304–246 B.C.


Height x width x depth: 21.6 x 17.1 x 10.8 cm (8 1/2 x 6 3/4 x 4 1/4 in.) Lender accessory: 2.5 x 18.5 x 9.5 cm (1 x 7 5/16 x 3 3/4 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique


Not On View


The Ancient World



This head is a sculptor’s model of the Ptolemaic Period. It would have guided artists on how the official image of the king, probably of Ptolemy I or II should be rendered. Typical of the period, and particularly these models, are the idealizing features consisting of precisely carved, straight brows, almond-shaped eyes, and a sweet smile.

The king wears a royal headscarf known as a nemes, pharaonic iconography in use for the past 2,500 years. On his brow is a rectangle with vertical and horizontal lines incised on it, an unfinished representation of a uraeus, or divine cobra. Other perpendicular incised lines that would have aided in the reproduction of the head may be found on the top, proper right side, bottom, and flat back.


By the 1960's or 1970's: collection of Mrs. France Lucas, Geneva, Switzerland; June, 2000: acquired by Mr. Alan Parker at Sotheby's Antiquities Sale NY7489, New York, Lot 199.

Credit Line

Museum purchase with funds from the Norma Jean and Stanford Calderwood Discretionary Fund, Norma Jean Calderwood Acquisition Fund, Egyptian Curator's Fund, Brian J. Brille Acquisition Fund for Ancient Egyptian Art, Miguel and Barbara de Bragança Fund, Mary E. Moore Gift, MFA Senior Associates and MFA Associates Fund for Egyptian Acquisitions, Barbara W. and Joanne A. Herman Fund for Egyptian Acquisitions, and the Ernest Kahn Fund