Lot 12
  • 12

A Marble Head of Zeus Ammon, Roman Imperial, circa A.D. 120-160

800,000 - 1,200,000 USD
3,554,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • A Marble Head of Zeus Ammon
  • Marble
  • Height from base 19 in. 48.2 cm.
carved for insertion into a cult statue or bust of the Greco-Egyptian god, and inspired by an early Hellenistic sculpture derived from a Pheidian prototype, with majestic countenance, the great curling ram horns of Ammon emerging above his brow, with long beard and moustache, his deeply-drilled hair bound in a diadem and flowing in long leonine locks down to his shoulders.


Mrs. E.L. King (1877-1975), Homer, Minnesota, and Daytona Beach, Florida
the Art League of Daytona Beach, received as a gift from Mrs. E. L. King in 1954 (Sotheby's, New York, November 21st-22nd, 1985, no. 50, illus.)


The head was recorded as being on the art market in Rome in 1931. (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, Rome, phot. nos. 31.7599-7600, renumbered as Inst. DAI neg. nos. 80.2846-2847)


The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, March 2007 to April 2008


Klaus Vierneisel, ed., Glyptothek München. Katalog der Skulpturen, vol. VI: Michaela Fuchs, Idealplastik, Munich, 1992, p. 214 ("eine Schöpfung hadrianisch-antoninischer Zeit").

Catalogue Note

Cf. Alfonso de Franciscis, Il Museo Nazionale Romano, Bronzi, vol. IV, 1, Rome, 1983, no. 67 (A.B. Cook, Zeus: A Study in Ancient Religion, vol. I, Cambridge, 1940, fig. 271).

The present head is one of the most striking and sensitively-carved known representations of the tutelary deity of Alexander the Great. The cult center for the oracle of the Greco-Egyptian god Zeus-Ammon was at the Oasis of Siwa, in the Libyan desert. This is where Alexander made his pilgrimage in 331 B.C and asked the god a question which remains unknown but can be guessed through the answer he received. According to his historians the priests of Zeus-Ammon interpreted the movements of the cult statue, as it was was being danced in a gilded boat by attendants in the temple's court, and replied by confirming Alexander as the legitimate king of Egypt and a divine being in his own right. Subsequently the profile head of Zeus Ammon began appearing on Alexander's coins.

Even though the present head is known to have been on the market in Rome in the early 1930s, it might not necessarily originate from Italy. When the Art League of Daytona Beach received it as a gift from Mrs. King it came with the story that it had been found at the mouth of the Nile; it may therefore reflect an image created in Egypt shortly after Alexander's consultation of the oracle, when he came to consider himself as the son of Zeus Ammon, thus greatly increasing the god's renown.

Grace Watkins King was the daughter of J.R. Watkins, who founded the manufacturing firm J.R. Watkins Co. in 1868.  In 1912 she and her husband Ernest Leroy King built an important residence on the banks of the Mississippi River in Homer, Minnesota, known as Rockledge, designed and furnished by renowned Chicago Prairie School architect George W. Maher. Despite strenuous efforts to preserve it Rockledge was torn down in 1987, but some of the furnishings were saved and dispersed, and several are in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. The family also owned an ornate Mediterranean style ocean-front residence in Daytona Beach, where Mrs. King was a member of the Art League, to which, before moving to Hawaii after the death of her husband, she donated the head of Zeus Ammon.