Portrait of Ptolemy IV Philopator
about 222–205 B.C.
Sculpture in Stone (MFA), no. 129; Sculpture in Stone and Bronze (MFA), p. 110 (additional published references).
Height: 27.5cm (10 13/16 in.); length (of face): 15 cm ( 5 7/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Marble probably from the Greek island of Paros
Not On View
The end of the chin is broken off, and there is other, minor damage, in the hair, on the edges of the ears, and to the tip of the nose. The neck is preserved completely, the bottom being a worked surface slanting forward slightly. Three large holes have been drilled in each cheek in a line from the ear to the chin, and there are two similar holes under the chin. The surfaces are slightly stained.
The head was probably set in a statue. The royal diadem has been carved in marble around the back of the head. It was continued in front of the ears in stucco. The handling of the locks on the top and back of the head indicates that details of the hair were pieced out with stucco. The eight holes in the lower part of the face must have been used for attaching a beard. This was either a later addition or was intended to be removable, to be used only on special occasions.
Marble has been scientifically tested with Electron Microprobe and determined to be Calcitic.
Although he has been characterized as weak and indolent, this Ptolemy is known for his battles in the Levant, especially the defeat of Antiochus III, king of the Seleucid Empire (Asia Minor, Syria, and Mesopotamia) at Raphia (near Gaza in ancient Palestine) in 217 B.C. The portrait was recut from an earlier sculpture. The set-back in front of the ears and hairline shows that the original face was worked away. Holes in the jaw were to hold a stucco beard on the new image.
Said to have been found near Hadra (ancient Eleusis near Alexandria). By 1901: with E. P. Warren (according to Warren's records: Bought in Alexandria); purchased by MFA from E. P. Warren, December 1901
Henry Lillie Pierce Fund