The Conception of Alexander the Great

Unknownabout 1475

The J. Paul Getty Museum

The J. Paul Getty Museum
Los Angeles, United States

The Macedonian queen Olympias, mother of Alexander the Great, sits holding her belly as her ladies-in-waiting leave her bedchamber, unaware of the ram-headed man slinking into the room. This strange figure is actually the magician and Egyptian king Nectanebo. Most versions of the legend of Alexander claim that Nectanebo, the last native Egyptian pharoah, prophesied for Olympias that she would be visited and conceive a child by Ammon, an Egyptian god with the body of a man and a ram's head. While King Philip was away on military campaign, Nectanebo disguised himself as Ammon, visited the queen's bedroom, and impregnated her. The resulting child was Alexander, whose legendary life was widely celebrated in the Middle Ages. In the Getty Museum's copy of the Mirror of History , Alexander's popular story is told in a series of eight miniatures.

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  • Title: The Conception of Alexander the Great
  • Date Created: about 1475
  • Location Created: Ghent, Belgium
  • Physical Dimensions: w30.5 x h43.8 cm
  • Type: Folio
  • Rights: http://www.getty.edu/legal/copyright.html
  • External Link: http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=4728
  • Medium: "Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment"
  • illuminator: Unknown
  • Terms of Use: http://www.getty.edu/legal/copyright.html