Torso of a Ptolemaic King, inscribed with cartouches of a late Ptolemy

Period: Ptolemaic Period

Date: 80–30 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt

Medium: Basalt

Dimensions: H. 93 cm (36 5/8 in); w. 31 cm (12 3/16 in); d. 25 cm (9 13/16 in)

Credit Line: Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift and Rogers Fund, 1981

Accession Number: 1981.224.1


Although carved according to age-old conventions of Egyptian sculpture, the style in which the artist has rendered the torso of this statue has its origins in the fourth century B.C. Beneath the full breast, the rib cage slopes back to a flat abdomen from which rises a round, fleshy stomach with a teardrop-shaped navel. The hips are delineated by a long curve that extends from waist to knee. Sculptural traces indicate that the work showed a king wearing a pharaonic nemes headdress. The emphatic energy conveyed by the statue, with its very high buttocks, long thighs, clear modeling, and taut low-slung belt, suggests freshness and youthfulness.

This statue bears in the cartouches the names known for Ptolemy XII and XV. (Ptolemy XIII and XIV, whose formal names are poorly known, are other kings possibly represented by the statue.) Ptolemy XII, called Auletes, was the father of Cleopatra and of Ptolemy XIII and XIV, two very young brothers with whom she successively shared the throne before sharing it with her son Ptolemy XV (Caesarion) from his third year onward. Caesarion, the last of the Ptolemaic dynasty, was named for his father Julius Caesar; Caesarion was murdered at the age of seventeen by Augustus and the conquering Romans. Either Auletes, who built extensively in Egypt, or Caesarion, whose status was promoted by his mother, is most likely to be depicted here.