Ptolemy II Philadelphus (285 - 247 B.C.) was the second ruler of the Ptolemaic Dynasty in Alexandria. An enlightened ruler, he demanded a translation of the first five books of the Old Testament, or Septuagint, for the Alexandrian Jews who more commonly spoke Koine Greek than Hebrew. From the Latin septuaginta meaning seventy, the Septuagint is named after the 70 (or possibly 72) Hebrew scholars who were brought from Jerusalem by Ptolemy, and tasked with translating the scripture for the Great Library of Alexandria.
Dressed in a leather cuirass, and red cloak, emphasizing his Greek origin, Ptolemy II here holds back the pages of a book, held out to him by the scholar at left, and considers the text. The solemn and concentrated expressions of the surrounding figures, clutching books, and the heavy tomes placed in the foreground, lend the composition a sense of gravity, worthy of this particularly rare subject.
We are grateful to Giuseppe Porzio for suggesting an attribution of this lot to Giovanni Antonio Galli, called Spadarino, on the basis of photographs, and for suggesting the subject to be Ptolemy II discussing the translation of the Old Testament with the Hebrew scholars.
1. R. Randolfi, “Giovanni Antonio Galli (detto lo Spadarino)”, in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, vol. 51, 1998).
2. E. Giffi Ponzi, “Spadarino (Giovanni Antonio Gaulli)”, in The Dictionary of Art, J. Turner, ed., vol. 29, p. 252.
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