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Italian, Florentine (?), 'Head of 'The Dying Alexander'', 17th-18th century

Key facts
Full title Head of 'The Dying Alexander'
Artist Italian, Florentine (?)
Date made 17th-18th century
Medium and support Imperial Egyptian porphyry on other
Dimensions 81 × 37 × 37 cm
Acquisition credit Presented by Henry Yates Thompson, 1894
Inventory number NG2241
Location Not on display
Collection Main Collection
Head of 'The Dying Alexander'
Italian, Florentine (?)

This porphyry sculpture represents the head of a young beardless man who turns to the left and looks upwards as though he is suffering mental or physical anguish. It is a copy of a famous antique marble head (now in the Uffizi, Florence) which was long known as ‘The Dying Alexander’ due to a later inscription (‘Alessandro’) on its pedestal. However, there is no actual evidence that it was originally intended to represent the dying hero Alexander the Great.

Indeed it is highly unlikely that an ancient Greek sculptor would have made such a dramatic portrait, and The Dying Alexander does not resemble known portraits of Alexander, such as the Azara Herm – a Roman marble copy of a Greek head of Alexander the Great – now in the Louvre, Paris. It has been suggested that the face of the Uffizi original is actually copied from the head of a young giant from the Gigantomachia of Pergamum – an ancient narrative sculptural frieze now in the Pergamon Museum, Berlin.

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