The widely recognisable sculptural portrait of Alexander as the inspired ruler, typified by his youthful, beardless face and his tousled leonine hair swept upwards from the forehead (anastole), was first established by Lysippus. Plutarch records that 'it was by this artist alone that Alexander himself thought it fit that he should be modelled’. Nothing survives from this Greek sculptor’s body of work, but an extant Roman copy known as The Azara Herm, now in the Louvre, is considered to be the closest likeness to the original Lysippan portrait of the King.
The present bust exudes quality, from the beautifully polished skin to the drilled and carved mass of hair, which is characterised by a sense of weight and plasticity. The marble is consistent with similar Roman works of around 1800; see, for example, a bust attributed to the circle of Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716—1799) sold at Christie’s South Kensington ( 4 June 2014, lot 166). Gazing to the left, with classically rounded chin and lips pursed, we may conclude that this model is based upon a Roman copy of the third century B.C., now housed in the Capitoline Museum in Rome. The original bust was displayed in the Sala delle Colombe in the Vatican until 1797, before moving to the Stanza del Gladiatore in 1817. Further stylistic resemblance is apparent in the head of the Dying Alexander in the Uffizi, Florence.
J. J. Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age, Cambridge, 2006, pp. 20-22
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