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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
 
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Greek
Head of Poseidon / Antigonos Doson
227–221 BC
Bronze

11 3/8 x 7 ¾ x 9 ½ inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson

Department of Antiquities

 
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Larger-than-life-size Greek bronze statues were the undisputed masterworks of ancient times. They often represented royalty as gods, but the identity of the ruler depicted in this famous MFAH head of Poseidon was a mystery--until the museum acquired an ancient silver coin.

The statues were focal points of temples and important public places, and they served as models and inspiration for the classical sculptures known today. Unfortunately, few ancient statues have survived in complete form. Distinguishing attributes and characteristics are largely missing, so coins of the period are often an important source for identifying gods, royalty, and important persons.

This internationally recognized sculpture created during the Hellenistic period (300-30 BC) is a case in point. His identity was unclear until an exceptionally fine tetradrachm--an ancient Greek silver coin worth four drachmas--entered the MFAH collection. Minted during the reign of Macedonian king Antigonos Doson (227-221 BC), the coin provided a possible solution.

The world conqueror Alexander the Great and his successors, including Antigonos Doson, associated themselves with the gods. Coins featuring Antigonos Doson portray him as Poseidon, god of the sea--a reference to his reestablishment of Macedonia's supremacy over the sea. The bronze head and silver coin both have fine facial bone structure, deep-set eyes, full open lips, and baroque curls of hair and beard that suggest the turbulence of waves. The windswept locks are barely bound by the fillet that serves as a crown. The head and coin define the height of Greek portraiture: god and mortal intertwined with a splendid infusion of divinity and naturalism.


Tetradrachm with Head of Poseidon/Antigonos Doson
227-221 BC
Silver
1/8 x 3 3/16 inches
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
Gift of Isabel B. and Wallace S. Wilson