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Ancient Art
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Portrait of a Ptolemaic queen, probably Arsinoe III

late 3rd–early 2nd century B.C.


23.5 cm (9 1/4 in.)
23.5 × 10.9 × 12 cm (9 1/4 × 4 5/16 × 4 3/4 in.)
The Harold A. Strickland, Jr., Collection
This under-life-size marble head represents a female member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, rulers of Egypt from the death of Alexander in 323 B.C. through the suicide of Cleopatra in 30 B.C. This portrait is highly idealized, with softly modeled and rather generic facial features. The loss of much of the coiffure, which in antiquity would have been completed in stucco and attached to the marble head, creates further difficulties in identifying the portrait’s historical subject. The favorite candidate among scholars is Arsinoe III, who served as queen alongside her husband (who was also her brother), Ptolemy IV, from 217 to 205 B.C. This was a tumultuous period in the history of Hellenistic Egypt; both king and queen were murdered during a palace coup.
On view
Egyptian, Greek

Ex-Collection: Fahim Kouchakji; sold at Sotheby's NYC, Dcember 13, 1979, lot 353; Richard Keresey, New York, acquired from the above; Royal Athena Galleries, NYC; Collection Harold A. Strickland, Vero Beach, Fl, acquired from the above, 1992; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., acquired from the above, 1998.


Sotheby Parke Bernet, New York, Important Ancient and Islamic Glass, Classical Egyptian, and Western Asiatic Antiquities, sale cat. (Thursday, December 13, 1979), lot 353.

Gisela Marie Augusta Richter, Portraits of the Greeks, 3 volumes (London: Phaidon Press, 1965), 264–65, fig. 1828, 1831, 1833.

Dorothy Thompson, Ptolemaic Oinochoai and Portraits in Faience (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1973), 87–91, pls. 38–39, 71.

Helmut Kyrieleis, Bildnisse der Ptolemäer, 2 (Berlin: Mann, 1975), 102–12, 181–83, pls. 88, 1.2, 88–89, fig. L1L9.

“Nuovi ritratti di Arsinoe III,” Arti Figurative (1975): 351–52.

R. R. R. Smith, Hellenistic Royal Portraits (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), 91–92, 165, no. 49–50, pls. 35.4–.9, 75.8.

“Acquisitions, 1998,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin (1999): 165, 198, ill.

Olga Palagia and University of Australia, “Arsinoe III Philopator in Sydney,” Mediterranean Archaeology 12 (1999): 107–9, pls. 2, 3, 20–3.

Susan Walker and Peter Higgs, Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth, exh. cat. (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001), 50–1, no. 13.

Art for Yale: Collecting for a New Century, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 2007), 207, pl. 193.

Roberta Casagrande-Kim, ed., When Greeks Ruled Egypt: From Alexander the Great to Cleopatra, exh. cat. (Princeton, N.J.: Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, 2014), 46–7, 97, no. 69, fig. 3-2.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.