IDEAL PORTRAIT OF OLYMPIAS, QUEEN OF THE MACEDONIANS -
PRIVATE AMERICAN COLLECTION
IDEAL PORTRAIT OF OLYMPIAS, QUEEN OF THE MACEDONIANS
Rectangular pietra serena ( grey stone ) relief
Incriptions : « OLIMPIA - R (EGINA) - M (ACEDOINE )»
H. 50.5 cm; W. 30 cm
This portrait of this woman outstands for its strong graphic character, the sophistication of the tinae and the ribbons in her hair, and the sensuality of the naked breasts. It certainly constitutes a unique example of this type of work in pietra serena from the Quattrocento present in the art market.
Set within an illusionistic frame, this remarkably well preserved profile portrait depicts Olympias (c. 375 B.C- 316 B.C ), Queen of Macedonians, wife of King Philip of Macedonia and mother of Alexander the Great.
Sharply carved, the relief combines the tradition of the sculpted portrait bust with the imagery of Roman emperors in the manner of Desiderio da Settignano (1429-1464) , the inventor of this type of relief. As a matter of fact, the subject can be linked with Da Settignano's Olympias, Queen of the Macedonians, at the Bourbon Palace of La Granja near Segovia.
Relief portraits with the profiles of Roman emperors and illustrious women of antiquity, commissioned by humanists, form a genre that arises with the aim of evoking the ancient world. Esteemed by the Medici entourage and other courts, they become immensely popular in the 15th century. Humanistic models of civic and military virtues which take up the figures on Roman coins and gems are ideal themes for these all'antica portraits which formed a distinctive genre within the 15th century Florentine art .
Because of the pictorial aspect of the work and its style, comparisons can be established with the two reliefs of Emperor Galba and Empress Faustine, both at the Musée de Jacquemart-André ( Inv. N° 1981 and 2043), such as another unattributed pair of reliefs, curiously depecting the same subjets, dated from 1500, exhibited at the Musée du Louvre ( Inv. N° Campana 12 and 13).
Our Olympia can also be connected to a series of portraits by par Gregorio di Lorenzo (1436-1504), known as the « Master of the marble Madonnas ». Sculpted in a more pronounced high-relief technique, the marble Portrait of Emperor Antonius Pio, dated from 1472 and exhibited at the Cleveland Museum of Art, as well as two other similar works by di Lorenzo at the Casa Romei in Ferrara, dated from 1470-1480, support these comparisons with the artist.
Probably the closest comparison, a last connection can be established with the Portrait of Emperor Hadrien in pietra serena, by the workshop of di Lorenzo exhibited at the Museo de Stefano Bardini in Florence.