Arsinoe or Cleopatra?
On 24 September, 2002, an unordinary exhibition opened in the Apollo
Hall (N 260) of the Winter Palace which enables scholars to show and general
public to see what usually remains hidden, the specific techniques of
The exhibition's centerpiece is the statue of a queen from the Egyptian
dynasty of Ptolemies. The history of its research concerns two most interesting
female scions of the Ptolemaic family.
Arsinoe, daughter of Berenice I and Ptolemy I Soter, one of the generals
of Alexander of Macedon and the founder of the Macedonian dynasty in Egypt,
was deified during her lifetime, and after she died, her cult proved the
most durable in the history of the Ptolemies. Cleopatra VII was the most
ingenious of Arsinoe's emulators. The story of her life, love and attempts
to save Egypt from the Roman conquest is well known. Cleopatra and Caesar,
Cleopatra and Mark Antony, Suicide of Cleopatra are one of the most enduring
legends of the antique world which remains mysterious and attractive to
the present day.
Problems of attribution (determination of the age, style, technique, school,
etc., of a work of art) most often are ignored by the general public,
though both chronology and reconstruction of historical events are based
Inscribed monuments pose no problem. If a monument is not inscribed or
the inscription is lost, scholars have to use minute details for its attribution,
as is the case with the Hermitage statue. First attempt at its attribution
was undertaken by the Egyptologist Irma A. Lapis. She suggested that the
statue portrayed the Ptolemaic queen Arsinoe II.
During the 1990s, the statue was showed in a few international exhibitions,
so the problem of its attribution came to the fore again.
The major exhibition Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth was showed
in 2000-2002 in Rome, London and Chicago. In the course of its preparation
Sally-Ann Ashton of the British Museum identified a group of uninscribed
statutes in the Egyptian style as portrayals of the renowned Cleopatra
VII. The group included the Hermitage statue showed in the exhibit. Both
queens' reigns are illustrated by coins and intaglios exhibited alongside
Georgy V. Vilinbakhov, Deputy Director Research of the State Hermitage
Museum and Andrey Bolshakov, Exhibition's curator opening the exhibition
At the exhibition