Carter B. Horsley
Some of the choicest
antiquities are miniatures
as this auction well demonstrates.
While many fledging collectors
to own small bronze statuettes, ancient jewelry is often smaller
and the silver and gold pieces more spectacular and the ancient
jewelry category are still quite undervalued in the art market.
Gold and silver statuettes
often tend to have
survived more intact that those of lesser metals simply because
of their intrinsic values and diminutive size.
Lot 14, for example, shown at
the top of this
article, is a very charming and impressive Hellenistic gold figure
of Harpokrates, circa 1st Century B.C., that is only 1 ½
inches tall but is quite a busy and robust composition. The solid-cast
piece, shows Harpokrates standing on a plinth with a turtle at
his feet, a dog to his right, and an eagle in front of a large
tree stump at his left upon which is coiled a uraeus.
figure is nude except for a mantle over his right shoulder and
his wavy hair is topped with an Egyptian crown and he holds a
cornucopia in his left hand. A suspension loop is located between
his wings. A similar piece is in the collection of the Walters
Art Gallery in Baltimore. This is truly a spectacular and great
piece and has a conservative estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It
sold for $3,760, including the buyer's premium as do all results
in this article.
A larger and less complex work
is Lot 50, a
Roman gilt silver figure is Isis/Fortuna, circa 1st Century A.D.,
that is 2 ¾ inches tall. The piece has an impressive sense
of dignity and grace despite its small size and is quite vigorously
modeled with very nice detailing in the face, the tresses and
the folds of the voluminous himation draped over her right shoulder
as well as the "abundant" cornucopia she holds in her
left hand. The goddess is crowned with a gilt kalathos. The estimate
is $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to sell.
The cover illustration of the
Lot 71, a Greek Gold and garnet pin, Hellenistic Period, circa
late 4th to 3rd Century, B.C., 2 5/8 inches long. The spectacular
pin has a tapering gold wire wrapped base that terminates in a
color adorned with filigree twisted wire in two zones, one forming
tongues, the other with spirals. The gold base is topped with
a garnet bust of Pan with a large phallus served as a back pillar.
The bust of the god is sculpted with exquisite detail and shows
him with a long forked beard and full mustache, a pug nose, prominent
cheekbones and curving horns and pointed ears overlapping his
long shaggy hair. The museum-quality lot has a conservative estimate
of $20,000 to $30,000. It failed to sell.
Two other lots from the same
period that are
highlighted by large polished garnets are Lots 69 and 70, the
former depicting sphinxes, and the latter with garnet cameo busts
of Africans. The former is 2 ¼ inches wide with fine detailing
of the sphinxes whose wings are uplifted. The latter is notable
for the highly stylized gold sheet rendering of the hair adorned
with filigree ringlets. Lot 69, shown above, which is considerably
larger, has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for
$21,150. Lot 70 has an estimate of only $4,000 to $6,000.
It sold for $4,935.
Lot 56 is a pair of Greek Gold
circa 4th Century B.C., that is more formal and less flamboyant
than those in Lot 69. The 1 7/8-inch high earnings have detailed
chased feathers on their wings and the sphinxes wear twisted wire
necklace with a broad diadem in their striate hair and the sphinx
figures are ornamented on the front with a three-tiered palmette
of sheet with twised wire fringes. It has an estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It sold for $22,325.
Lot 57 is a Greek silver figure
of a sphinx,
circa early 5th Century, B.C., that is 1 inch high and has an
estimate of $5,000 to $8,000, and is notable for the cross-hatched
breast scales and traces of gilding on the wings. It sold for
Lot 10 is a very highly
stylized Greek gold
figure of an Asian deity, circa 4th to 3rd Century, B.C., that
is 3 3/8 inches high. The catalogue notes that the figure perhaps
depicts Orpheus or Attis and is fabricated from hammered sheet.
The figure wears a mantle over trousers and a conical cap and
holds a phiale in his right hand and has his left arm raised,
"perhaps originally holding a now-missing attribute,"
according to the catalogue. The figure, which suffers from some
damage at the hip and the top of the cap, stands on an integral
plinth and his garments are strongly ribbed in a fashion that
would fascinate modern designers. It has a conservative estimate
of $20,000 to $30,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 61 is a pair of Greek gold
Period, circa 3rd Century B.C., that comes from the Ervika Foundation
and Marc Rosenberg in Karlsruhe. The 1 1/2-inch long earrings
each depict in exquisite detail an eagle, with dense granulation
on the body, with outstretched wings and talons grasping a thunderbolt.
The eagles are flanked and joined by wire to double tassels of
plain beards interspersed with granulated double-disks and hang
beneath large rosettes. The lot has a quite conservative estimate
of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $41,125.
Lot 63 comes from the same
period as Lot 61
and is a Greek gold Nike pendant that is 2 1/8 inches high. The
catalogue notes that the pendant originally was suspended from
an earring and depicts the goddess wearing a diaphanous chiton
that has fallen off her right shoulder, exposing her breast. Her
right arm is extending outwards holding the end of her mantle
and she holds a palm branch in her left hand that arches over
her head in front of her upraised wings. The impressive piece
is missing the lower part of her right leg, but is quite astonishingly
dyamic in its composition. It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $23,500.
were a tremendous
success today in Christie's second annual sale devoted exclusively
to ancient jewelry and seals," said G. Max Bernheimer, the
head of Christie's antiquities department, adding that "particularly
successful were items that exhibited intricate granulationand
filigree - two techniques in which the ancients particularly excelled."
Two-thirds of the 206 offered lots sold in the same for a total
For those who are more
enthralled by the soft
modeling of precious stones rather than the goldsmith’s artistry,
Lot 42 will be hard to resist. It is an Egyptian amethyst amulet
of Theoris, Late Period, Dynasty XXV-XXX, 712-343 B.C., depicting
an upright hippopotamus with engraved details, 1 ¼ inches
high. The cool, crystalline color of the piece is wonderful and
the lot has a conservative estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It
failed to sell.
Lot 39, however, may be even
for it contains 28 Egyptian amulets, many of very high quality,
from the Middle Kingdom to Ptolemaic Period, 2040-30 B.C. The
lot, which comes from the Crescent Gallery in Tokyo, has a very
conservative estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. Most of the amulets
are of turquoise faience, but the lot also includes a chalcedony
falcon, a carnelian lion and a carnelian hippopotamus. It
for only $5,875.
Lot 25 is another lot that some
might have wished had been divided as it consists of 5 Urartian
silver pins, circa Late 8th to 7th Century B.C., most about three
inches high. Most have tapering shanks and are surmounted by lions.
The lot has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000 and the pins are
mounted beside one another on a wooden base to quite dramatic
effect. It failed to sell.
Other highlights include Lot
82, a Greek gilt
silver bust of Ares, Hellenistic Period, circa 3rd to 2nd Century
B.C., that is seven-eighths of an inch high and has an estimate
of $4,000 to $6,000. It failed to sell. The god of
is wearing a high crested Corinthian helmet and has tracing of
gilding. Despite its small size, the god’s face is quite
animated. Other good lots include Lot 153, a Roman silver votive
axe head, circa 1st to 3rd Century A.D., that is 3 inches high
and has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000, and which failed
to sell, Lot 154, a Roman silver figure, circa 2nd Century
A.D., that is 4 1/8-inches high and has an estimate of $8,000
to $12,000, and which failed to sell, Lot 188, a
silver reliquary cross, circa 10th to 11th Century A.D., 2 7/8
inches high, which has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, and
which sold for $19,975, and Lot 203, shown above, a neo-Assyrian
red jasper Pazuzu pendant, circa 8th to 7th Century B.C., 2 inches
long, which depicts the demon Pazuzu holding snakes in his outstretched
hands with a dog to his left and a scorpion to his right and a
conservative estimate of $6,000 to $8,000, and which sold for
The auction abounds in many
fine ancient rings
and necklaces and also has some impressive large ancient cylinder
The auction's less
than spectacular results
are surprising for it had lots of museum-quality works at estimates
that were generally reasonable. The non-Egyptian antiquities market
has been much slower than others in its escalation of market values,
which is surprising given not only the beauty and rarity of many
such works but also the likelihood that the market is becoming
tighter in terms of regulation in various countries. As it is,
it remains a land of bargains for the astute with a fair bit of
money and world-class collections can still be assembled.