Exhibitions: Egypt Reborn: Art for Eternity

The Brooklyn Black Head

During the Ptolemaic Period (332–30 B.C.E.), when Egypt was ruled by a family of Greek descent named Ptolemy, large numbers of Greeks moved to Egypt, where many served as government officials. We cannot know, therefore, whether this striking head, from an over-life-size statue, represented a Greek or a native Egyptian, especially since its striking features are a blend of Egyptian and Greek styles. The short curls, for example, are a simplified rendering of a Greek hairdo, and the large, deep-set eyes derive from images of Alexander the Great. But the facial modeling, with its folds and furrows, has many precedents in Egyptian art, as does the narrow, sharply outlined mouth. We may see here the beginning of a mixed Greco-Egyptian style, which was soon to disappear when the Romans conquered Egypt.