The Ancient Art Council

Please help us keep Ptolemy I Soter—Alexander the Great’s general and the founder of the Ptolemaic Dynasty which ended with Cleopatra—in San Francisco

The Ancient Art Council is seeking your help to acquire this Egyptian limestone relief of a Ptolemaic king in a devotional pose. Any amount will help.

This rare and important royal portrait will significantly enhance the collection and open the eyes of the visitors to its beauty. In addition, it reveals the continued practice of piety from Egyptian pharaohs to Hellenistic rulers and Roman emperors. Viewers will also discover the march of ancient Egyptian history from the Hellenistic age to the Roman Empire.

About the Piece

Relief with Ptolemy I Soter making an offering

Egyptian, Ptolemaic period, 305–282 BC

Limestone; 33 x 38 cm (13 x 15 in.)

About the Relief

In true Egyptian iconography, the king is depicted wearing the White Crown of Upper Egypt with a uraeus. With arms outstretched to make an offering to a god, he holds a bowl or censer in his left hand. His long and sensitive curving fingers and the soft modeling of the fleshy body were a hallmark of the earlier 29th and 30th Dynasties and continued into the Ptolemaic period. This relief marked by elegant precision of details carries a message: a Hellenistic Greek king ruling Egypt appropriates a royal gesture of offering exclusive to an earlier Egyptian king in an effort to justify his sovereignty.

 

What is also remarkable is that in the reworking of this mannered and refined image is hidden a second appropriation. The cartouches originally spelling two of the names of the Ptolemaic king, Ptolemy I Soter, had been recarved to form phonetically in Egyptian hieroglyphs the name of the Roman emperor Vespasian (r. AD 69–79): V-SP-I-I-S-I-N-U-S. Adopting a common practice from ancient Egypt (known as usurpation), a later emperor would put his own mark over an existing image of an earlier king.

How You Can Help

To make a donation: please send your check (payable to “Ancient Art Council” earmarked for “Egyptian Relief”) to:

 

Ancient Art Council

Legion of Honor

100 – 34th Avenue

Lincoln Park

San Francisco, CA 94121

 

Please consider donating to this Ptolemaic relief. We would be grateful for your support.

The safety of our staff and visitors is of the highest priority to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. As we continue to monitor closely COVID-19, we are taking proactive steps to maintain a safe space for our members and visitors. In light of this, the Museums have cancelled all events through 30 June. The April and May programs for the Ancient Art Council will be rescheduled. Watch this space!