Friday, December 17, 2010

The Alexander Sarcophogus

The Alexander Sarcophagus is the star of the Istanbul Archaeological Museum. Situated in a pool of light in a hushed room, this early Hellenistic artifact is absolutely remarkable in its preservation, which includes remnants of the original paint colors that covered the entire sarcophagus. It was carved in the early 300s BC from Pentelic marble (the same stone used in the Athenian Parthanon,) a very pure, warm-toned marble. Osman Hamdi Bey, an Ottoman artist, excavated the sarcophagus in Sidon, Lebanon and brought it to Istanbul in 1887.

The relief sculpture on one side depicts Alexander the Great fighting the Persians in the battle of Issus. It is a truly beautiful frieze, complex in design, gorgeously rendered and poignant. The other long side of the sarcophagus depicts Alexander and the King of Sidon in hunting scenes. Originally thought to have been made for Alexander the Great, it is now believed that the sarcophagus was created for the king of Sidon, Abdalonymus. 

We love this piece, and have spent several hours with it already. Touring Istanbul with friends and family will repeatedly bring us to the Istanbul Archeological Museum, and we plan to spend much of our time there studying the marvel that is the Alexander Sarcophagus.

Looking at the Alexander Sarcophagus with PAFA student Lucia Thome

PAFA students Morgan and Galen studying the Sarcophagus

Details, here and below, of the battle frieze.
This detail includes a depiction of Alexander the Great on the left.

The hunting frieze

Details, here and below, of the hunting frieze.

Looking at the Sarcophagus with students from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

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