alexander iii

Greek intaglio ring of Alexander the Great, Hellenistic, c. 2nd-1st Century BC

The carnelian stone is engraved with a profile head of Alexander the Great in the guise of Herakles wearing the lion’s skin, the jaws pulled up over his head with the paws tied at the neck, set in the original gold ring. The intaglio’s style imitates the famous Tetradrachms of Alexander the Great. Dating from the 2nd to 1st century BC,  this ring is close to the great general’s reign, making it a prized and unique piece. 

Macedonian Style Bronze Figurine from the Arabian Peninsula, c. 3rd-1st Century BC

This is believed to be a statue of a special representative welcoming a king. He wears a chitoniskos (tunic) with a Macedonian breastplate and a Macedonian style headband which is knotted in the back. A cloak is draped over his shoulders and wraps around the left forearm. He holds his right arm in a gesture of address with his left arm down, the palm facing upward, fingers bent. The stylized, large empty eyes were once once encrusted.

This large bronze statue, judging by the military uniform and headband, is an important sovereign. The stylization of the face dominated by big eyes is characteristic of Oriental productions in contrast with the regalia modeled directly from the Hellenistic style. The statue reveals the work of a local artist inspired by the armor and headdress of the invading Macedonians of Alexander the Great from the 4th century BC.

2

◦ Father and Son: Emperor Alexander III of Russia and Tsarevich Nicholas, future Emperor Nicholas II.

Alexander and Nicholas were different. They were almost exactly opposite. Alexander was a huge and bear-like man, while his oldest son was small, gentle and affectionate. An account from the memoirs of the artist Alexander Benois gives one impression of Alexander III:

“After a performance of the ballet ’Tsar Kandavl’ at the Mariinsky Theatre, I first caught sight of the Emperor. I was struck by the size of the man, and although cumbersome and heavy, he was still a mighty figure. There was indeed something of the muzhik [Russian peasant] about him. The look of his bright eyes made quite an impression on me. As he passed where I was standing, he raised his head for a second, and to this day I can remember what I felt as our eyes met. It was a look as cold as steel, in which there was something threatening, even frightening, and it struck me like a blow. The Tsar’s gaze! The look of a man who stood above all others, but who carried a monstrous burden and who every minute had to fear for his life and the lives of those closest to him. In later years I came into contact with the Emperor on several occasions, and I felt not the slightest bit timid. In more ordinary cases Tsar Alexander III could be at once kind, simple, and even almost homely.”

Many people who have met Nicholas remarked how his eyes alone spoke kindness (though the picture above doesn’t do him justice). Alexander had no real confidence in Nicholas’ ability. When his minister Sergei Witte proposed that Nicholas should chair a committee to build the Trans-Siberian railway, Alexander is reported to have said to Witte, “But do you know the Grand Duke, my heir? Have you ever had a serious conversation with him? He is a child. His reasoning is childish. How could he preside over this committee?” Alexander first allowed Nicholas tag along to his official duties in 1893, the year before Nicholas became Tsar. This was one of few mistakes made by Alexander according to Nicholas’ sister Olga, because Nicholas was not ready for his new difficult job by the time he succeed the throne. Nicholas was aware of his unpreparedness and would never do the same thing to his own son. So often when Nicholas went on official events, his only son and heir Alexei would often accompany him. This was to prepare Alexei for when he would someday become Tsar. But this was never tested as the monarchy was abolished and the family was murdered.

2

A pope gave Ireland to the King of England. Pope Alexander III, wanting to eradicate Celtic Christianity in Ireland, declared Catholic Henry II of England to be the rightful Irish sovereign. This papal declaration, issued in 1172, led to the English conquest of Ireland, which took several centuries to complete, by which time England no longer followed the Pope. It wasn’t until the 20th century that the Irish were able to regain their freedom. At which point, it was one of the most Catholic nations in the world. So it would seem Alexander III briefly got what he wanted … until the whole sexual abuse scandal thingy.

A Roman marble head of Alexander the Great, Antonine, circa 138-161 AD

Over life-size Alexander III, depicted with distinctive wavy hair falling at his furrowed brow and the nape of his neck, his brows carved in relief with notched details, the lidded eyes with incised irises and drilled pupils, his shapely lips above a strong chin.

Clearly identifying this marble head as a portrait of Alexander the Great (366-323 BC) are his characteristic idealized facial features and distinctive “anastolé” hairstyle, with a wavelike formation of locks over the forehead.

Although a number of images of Alexander were made during his lifetime, most of these Greek originals have not survived. The vast majority of his portraits that have come down to us are Graeco-Roman copies, adaptations, and transformations in all media (bronze and marble sculptures, paintings, mosaics, coins, gemstones) that reflected lost Greek originals. These Graeco-Roman images were produced throughout Rome’s empire from about the 2nd Century BC until late Roman antiquity.

More about this ancient work of rare art  here…

2

Roman Head of a Man (possibly Alexander the Great), Greece, Antonine Period, c. mid-2nd Century AD

(Note: When I first saw this head I immediately assumed it was Alexander. What do you think?)

A mid-2nd century date can be suggested by a stylistically similar portrait of Antoninus Pius from Olympia, Greece (M. Wegner, Die Herrscherbildnisse in antonischer Zeit, 1939, p.136, pl.9b). The dating is also supported by stylistic considerations, which include the incising of the irises and the large shallow bore-hole in the pupils of the eyes, as well as the deeply undercut long hairlocks. Drilling of the hairlocks sometimes with small struts left between the individual drill channels was characteristic at the time of Marcus Aurelius (AD 161-180). In this portrait the hair is still treated plastically rather than schematically suggesting that it dates to the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161).

The artistic style of this portrait is in keeping with mid-late 2nd century sculptures of the Greek East, especially of Greece. There are two particularly close stylistic parallels, circa AD 200, in Copenhagen, Denmark  at the Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek Museum. Both demonstrate the same centrally-parted long curling hair. One of these has been identified as Alexander the Great by V. Poulsen. It has also been suggested that this present portrait is meant to depict Alexander the Great, with portraits of Alexander being produced as late as the 4th century AD.

2

November 9, 1866 – Wedding of Tsesarevich Alexander Alexandrovich and Princess Dagmar of Denmark.

The engagement between Princess Dagmar and Tsesarevich Nikolai was announced in September 1864 but tragedy followed. Seven months later Nikolai died, and after the shock came the determination from both sets of parents that his brother Alexander, who was now forced into the position of Heir, should also inherit Dagmar. But Alexander was in love with his mother’s maid-of-honour, Maria Elimovna Mestcherskaya, he tried to put her aside but could not face it, and in May 1866 he decided to renounce his right to the throne. This his father would not contemplate and after a furious argument Alexander was packed off to Denmark. In under two weeks his engagement to Dagmar was announced.

It should not have worked, but it did. Dagmar, who took the name ‘Maria Feodorovna’ on Orthodox baptism, and Alexander started thair relationship with nothing in common but their grief for Nikolai : ’ before, I had finished what I had to say, Minny threw her arms around my neck and started crying. I, too, could naturally not hold back tears… We talked and reminisced a great deal about Nixa and our memories of him ’ - this is how Alexander described the moment of his proposal. He was profoundly ill at ease in the public role of heir to the throne and the couple faced many tensions in their early years together. But they came through it all, to enjoy a happy and successful marriage.  {The Camera and the Tsars}