Head Attributed to Arsinoe II

Period: Ptolemaic Period

Reign: reign of Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II

Date: 278–270 B.C.

Geography: From Egypt, Memphite Region, Abu Rawash, IFAO excavations 1922-1923

Medium: Limestone (Indurated)

Dimensions: H. 12 cm (4 3/4 in); W. 9 cm (3 9/16 in); D. 9 cm (3 9/16 in)

Credit Line: Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1938

Accession Number: 38.10


This small head was created in the early part of the reign of the Macedonian Greek Ptolemies and is believed to depict Arsinoe II (278–270 B.C.), sister/wife of Ptolemy II, one of a line of religiously and politically important Ptolemaic queens.
The delicate arc created by her brow bone over narrow slightly slanted eyes with long thin extensions is a style very closely related to that of Dynasty 30, the last of the traditional Egyptian pharaonic dynasties. The early Ptolemies made great efforts to show themselves as the inheritors of the pharaohs who had preceded them, continuing their building projects and closely adopting their style.
At the same time, Ptolemaic queens served a much more prominent role in the monarchy than did the queens of Dynasty 30, who are virtually unknown. Images of Arsinoe were created for a variety of contexts and depict her also in strongly Hellenistic style (2002.66; 26.7.1017) and. in her posthumous cult, in a mixed style that developed over the course of the dynasty (20.2.21).

Link to a blog about Ptolemaic Art at The Met
Nile and Newcomers: A Fresh Installation of Egyptian Ptolemaic Art