Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Bust of Cleopatra

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Bust of Cleopatra httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommonsthu

63.5 cm × 33.3 cm (25.0 in × 13.1 in)

The Death of Cleopatra, Cleopatra and Caesar, Nefertiti Bust, Paradise of Maitreya, (Untitled) Blue Lady

The Bust of Cleopatra VII is a granite bust currently on display in the Gallery of Ancient Egypt at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). It is believed to have been discovered in Alexandria, Egypt at the site of Cleopatra's Sunken Palace on the island of Antirhodos. The bust was purchased by the ROM's founder Charles Trick Currelly while on expedition in Egypt in the early 1900s.


The Bust of Cleopatra VII can be found on Level 3 of the ROM in the Galleries of Africa: Egypt along with almost 2000 other Egyptian artifacts on display.


Egyptologist: Dr. Bernard Von Bothmer of the Brooklyn Museum, was the first expert to attempt to identify the piece and published his findings in an exhibition catalogue from 1960. On the subject of identification of such statues, Dr. Von Bothmer said "each sculpture has to be judged by style, rather than by attributes and accoutrements."

  • Neckline: Dr. Von Bothmer noted that "with exceptions, the thin garment indicated by the neckline is more common in early than in late Ptolemaic Sculpture."
  • Facial Features: When examining the features of the sculpted face, Dr. Von Bothmer was of the opinion "the expression is dry, bland, and non-commital." He felt as though "there is a mystery in the face, and the puzzling element is probably Hellenistic." Based on closer analysis, he thought that the piece ought to be "distinguished from more traditional sculptures of the early Ptolemaic Period."
  • With no other previous scholarly literature available on the sculpture at the time, Von Bothmer concluded that: "If the date suggested (about 240-200 BC) is correct, we may have in this queen either Berenice II or Arsinoe III."


    Dr. Robert S. Bianchi, also of the Brooklyn Museum, suggested the bust was either of a Queen or Goddess because "the appearance of the uraeus on the hair band is an attribute common to both." Bianchi thought a more precise identification would have been possible "had the annulets on the crown of the head been preserved."

  • Neckline: Dr. Bianchi decided to focus on other sculpted features of the bust "for the chronological criteria." He made note of the "concave, raised neckline" on the statue and compared the features of the neckline with other Ptolemaic statues of women from the Musées royaux d'art et d'histoire in Brussels, Belgium (English: Royal Museums of Art and History) and the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut. The statues Dr. Bianchi used to compare with the ROM's piece were both dated between 200-100 BC.
  • Facial Features: Dr. Bianchi also identified the bust's time period using the sculpting style of the facial features. He noted "The face is modeled in broad planes without the addition of linear adjuncts, and the treatment of the eyes, with a creased upper lid which passes over the lower, recalls features common to sculptures assigned to 3rd and 2nd centuries BC."
  • With this research, evidence began to suggest that the statue belonging to the ROM had different characteristics when compared with other Ptolemaic statues from the 240-200 BC period. Dr.Bianchi's research challenged the first commonly accepted identification of the statue by dating the fragment to between 200 and 100 BC, and by giving merit to the possibility that the statue in fact depicts a goddess.

    2000s - present

    Dr. Sally-Ann Ashton of The Fitzwilliam Museum focuses on "the unusual extended back pillar with crown and the rounded portrait features, which on closer examination echo but do not exactly match those of early Ptolemaic period" in dating the statue.

  • Facial Features: While examining the statue's face, Dr. Ashton noted "in profile, the face appears flat and almost angular, a feature typical of Roman-era copies of Ptolemaic sculpture." She adds, "the pronounced modelling around the eyes is typical of Roman-period sculptures and can be found on numerous sphinxes and portraits of the emperor as pharaoh."
  • Back Pillar and Crown: Dr. Ashton made a connection between the statue at the ROM and an almost identical piece from the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, University College, London, "which shares the unusual pillar and crown, is also linked to the 1st century BC and to Cleopatra herself."
  • Currently, the artifact label for the Royal Ontario Museum's statue of Cleopatra VII reads as follows:

    Ancient Egyptian

    Roberta Shaw, Assistant Curator of World Cultures at the Royal Ontario Museum suggest, "the statue probably stood outside some important municipal building. Perhaps a temple, perhaps the famous Alexandrian Library." The objects meaning within Ancient Egyptian culture stems from its role as a municipal statue. The small-sized nature demonstrates the statue would have been seen on a daily basis for the late Ptolemaic Egyptians, it would have been displayed at a level where the public could easily identify it as Cleopatra VII.

    Modern day

    The modern day significance of the statue can be found in the rarity and academic properties. In regards to rarity, Roberta Shaw states that "the ROM's statue of Cleopatra VII forms part of a pair," and is believed that "the sister statue resides in Alexandria." This pair is one of a kind, no other statues of this iconic ancient queen during the period 69 - 30 BC have been discovered. For this reason, the ROM's statue gives all the opportunity to examine Ptolemaic/Roman egyptianizing style of sculpture, establish a timeline to other period sculpture, and as Dr. Ashon states it "likely shows us the earliest representations of Cleopatra in two roles: queen and goddess of Egypt."


    Bust of Cleopatra Wikipedia