By Carter B. Horsley
Christie's has a considerably
larger antiquities auction this season than Sotheby's, especially
in its Egyptian section, this auction of Antiquities at Sotheby's
is notable for a very fine group of Greek and Roman sculptures.
The cover illustration of the
example, Lot 66, shown above, is a superb Hellenistic marble head
of a prince, circa mid 2nd Century B.C., that is 9 inches high
and was once in the collection of the Reigning Family of Lichtenstein.
It has a conservative estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It is
in very fine condition. It sold for $247,750, including the
buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article. About
72 percent of the offered lots sold, considerably better than
the fall Christie's sale, but still not a very successful sale,
ending the fall auction season that has been quite mixed. The
buy-in rates at these antiquities sales and at many of this season's
day sales were high, often one out of three lots, and will be
of concern to future consignors as will be the fact that many
of the better lots failed to sell despite estimates that were
not overinflated generally. For bargain-hunters, of course, such
conditions are very desirable, but the season ends on a perplexing
note. In some categories, collectors were ready to spring for
hefty prices but in others they were very hesitant. Despite "spin"
explanations that collectors were interested in high-quality items
that were "fresh" to the market, the results of this
season were quite uneven and many fine works went unsold, indicating
a rather weak market. In the antiquities market, Egyptian works
have been very strong for several seasons but this fall the results
were quite mixed. The spring auctions, therefore, promise to be
unpredictable and very much influenced by general economic conditions.
Antiquities remain greatly undervalued vis a vis
major collecting markets. The market has risen steadily but not
too dramatically for several seasons, until this one, which was
decidedly weak. Other sectors, such as American paintings, Modern
and Contemporary have shown considerable strength, but Latin American
Art and Tribal Art were also rather weak.
An earlier piece in not quite
as good condition
is Lot 67, a Greek marble head of Aphrodite, circa late 4th Century
B.C. The 15 1/4-inch-high marble has a somewhat ambitious estimate
of $400,000 to $600,000. It failed to sell.
A more serene marble head of
has also weathered the eons better is Lot 87, which is dated Roman
Imperial, 1st Century, A.D. The 9-inch-high bust has an modest
estimate of $70,000 to $100,000. It sold for $78,375.
For those interested in seeing
the rest of
Aphrodite, Lot 88, is a 45-inch-high headless statue of the goddess,
that is also Roman Imperial, circa late 2nd Century A.D. The catalogue
provides the following commentary on this lot that is modeled
on the Aphrodite of Syracuse:
"This statue is the mirror
image of the
Hellenistic original, with other variations introduced by the
Roman copyist. According to Bieber, Ancient Copies,
65, 'in the Hellenistic original, Aphrodite's mantle is not knotted.
She prevents it from slipping off her body by holding it with
her left hand, while with her right she covers her breasts. The
combination of the slipping drapery and the gesture of modesty
appealed to the Romans, but the copyists added an extra measure
of security by knotting the drapery held over the lap.'"
The lot has a conservative
estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It failed to sell.
For many collectors, especially
statues, drapery and the fineness with which it is rendered is
very desirable and evocative. Lot 89 is a Hellenistic marble figure
of a woman or Goddess, circa late 2nd/early 1st Century, B.C.,
shown above, that is a dark, weathered look but considerable grace.
The catalogue notes that "for a similarly draped figure see
the muse Clio in the famous relief of the Apotheosis of Homer
by Archaelaos of Priene (circa 200-150). She is shown holding
a volumen in her right hand and leaning against a
with her left hand." This lot has an estimate of $60,000
to $90,000. It sold for $69,750.
The most impressive sculpture
in the auction
is Lot 117, shown at the top of this article, a "monumental'
marble figure of the Emperor Antoninus Pius, or Marcus Aurelius,"
Roman Imperial, circa 138-180 A.D. The 51 3/4-inch-high, headless
and legless torso was exhibited in the entrance hall of 540 Madison
Avenue in New York from 1990 to 2001. It has a very modest estimate
$125,000 to $175,000. It sold for $214,750. A
of this is the cuirassed statue of Marcus Aurelius from the Villa
Borghese. The ornate corselet is carved with confronted rampant
Lot 118, shown above, is a fine
head of Socrates, circa 1st Century A.D. It is 13 3/4 inches and
has a modest estimate of $60,000 to $90,000. It sold for
Lot 111 is a 26 1/2-inch-high
of a youth, Roman Republic or early Roman Imperial, circa 1st
Century B.C. that was once in the William Herbert Hunt Collection.
It is missing part of the youth's right thumb and has a somewhat
ambitious estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It failed to
The sculpture is impressive and in generally very good
but neither dramatic nor very poetic nor very romantic.
Much smaller, but much more
dramatic is Lot
108, a bronze figure of Athena Promachos, Roman Imperial, circa
1st Century A.D., a 5 3/16-inch high statue that has quite remarkable
detailing. The lot is from the collection of the lat Marion Schuster
of Lausanne and has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It failed to sell.
Another very fine bronze is Lot
depicts Hermes and is dated Roman Imperial, circa 2nd Century
A.D. The 6 3/4-inch-high statue was once in the collection of
Charles Gillet of Lausanne and has a modest estimate of $12,000
to $18,000. It sold for $14,400.
Lot 76 is a Hellenistic silver
Apollo, circa 2nd/early 1st Century B.C. The catalogue notes that
the 4-inch-high statue is "probably a portrait of a Hellenistic
prince in the guise of the god, perhaps Mithradates VI Eupator
of Pontus, or his son Ariarthes IX Eusebes Philopator of Cappadocia,"
adding that his extended right hand holds a bow and his left hand
holds a drinking horn. There is considerable encrustation along
the right arm but the figure has great grace. The lot has an estimate
of $90,000 to $120,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 116 is a wonderful bronze
eastern Roman or Partian Empire, circa 2nd/3rd Century A.D., which
is 11 1/4 inches long and has a lid surmounted by an opening in
the form of a larger panther head in front of a diminutive winged
Nike holding a wreath and a globe. The burner also has an eagle
with folded wings standing atop a ram head at each front corner
and the handle terminates in a small panther head. This lot has
a very conservative estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It failed
Lot 130 is a fine Roman mosaic
1st Century A.D., that depicts an octopus surrounded by five different
fish. The panel measures 23 3/4 by 48 1/2 inches and has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $148,750.
The piece de
resistance in the Egyptian
section of the auction is Lot 45, a fragmentary faience figure
of a hippopotamus, 12th Dynasty, 1938-1759 B.C. The 4 3/4-inch
long work has its massive head resting on the foreleg, the head
and body painted in black detailing of aquatic plants and remains
of a bright turquoise blue glaze. The work is mostly white and
full of charm and has a very conservative estimate of $10,000
to $15,000. It failed to sell.
Another impressive fragmentary
work is Lot
21, a granite head of the Goddess Sekhmet, Thebes, 18th Dynasty,
period of Amenhotep III 1390-1353 BC., The 10-inch-high fragment
is the front of the head of Sekhmet, which is in excellent condition
and was one of more than 600 statues of the goddess of war and
protector of the king that lined the courts and passageways of
the great temple Amenhotep III built in honor of the goddess Mut
at Thebes. The work was once in the collection of the Ofner Collection
in Germany and has a conservative estimate of $75,000 to $125,000.
It sold for $75,500.
For those who find wonder in
Lot 8 will be hard to resist. It consists of two exquisite Egyptian
amulets, Late Period, 716-30 B.C. One is a hematite amulet of
hippopotamus-headed Thoeris striding with her arms beside her
pregnant belly and wearinga tripartite wig surmounted by a flaring
cylindrical headdress, her crocodile tail incised with a chevron
pattern. It is 1 1/8 inches high. The other is a lapis lazuli
amulet of a coiled lion-headed cobra and is 15/16 of an inch high.
The lot has a conservative estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. The
lot sold for $3,900.
Lot 22 is a 7-inch-high wood
figure of a man,
18th Dynasty, Amarna Period, reign of Akhenaten, 1353-1336 B.C.,
which was formerly on loan to the Princeton University Art Museum
from 1989 to 1997 and was once in the collection of Ernest Brummer
of New York. The catalogue quotes John Cooney that the sculpture's
provenance is "tantalizing," stating that "no wooden
sculptures have been recovered from El-Amarna, only isolated fragments
of them due, apparently, to the ravages of termites." "The
most plausible provenance of this piece," the quotation continued,
"is the so-called tomb at Tutu at Medinet Gurob at the entrance
to the Faiyum. There, at the turn of the century, a group of wooden
statuettes and wooden objects were discovered by the natives and
the finds dispersed on the market."
The lot has an estimate of
$70,000 to $100,000.
It sold for $126,750.
shown above, is an impressive kneeling bronze figure of a king,
21st/22nd Dynasty, 1075-716 B.C., that is 6 1/4 inches high and
has very fine detailing and remains of gilding. It has an estimate
of $100,000 to $150,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 29 is
a 4 3/4-inch-high bronze figure of a cat, 22nd/26th Dynasty, 944-525
B.C., that was once in the collections of Mathias Komor and Mrs.
John Hay Whitney. The quite lovely statuette has an estimate of
$20,000 to $30,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 30 is
a 10 1/2-inch-high bronze figure of Wadjet, 21st/26th Dynasty,
1075-525 B.C., that was once in the collection of Charles Dikran
Kelekian of New York. The handsome statue of the seated lion goddess
has a conservative estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold
In the Near
East section of the auction, one of the highlights is Lot 155,
an Achaemenid Silver Rhyton, circa 5th Century B.C. This vessel
is 7 3/8-inches high and in very good condition and has a modest
estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $87,000. The
finely modeled head of the couchant winged caprid at the base
of the vessel is very impressive.
figures are among the choicest of all antiquities. Lot 145 is
a Sumerian gypsum figure of a worshipper, Early Dynastic II, circa
2750-2600 B.C. The 17 3/8-inch-high statue was once in the collections
of Marion Schuster of Lausanne and Mathilde de Goldschmidt Rothschild.
While the bearded figure with clasped hands in front of his bare
chest cannot compare with the finely modeled figures of Sumerian
rulers, it is relatively large and its garment is nicely carved,
but only the front half is carved and was probably a relief. It
has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $225,750.
alluring is Lot 146, shown above, a Sumerian limestone head of
a woman, early Dynastic II/III, circa 2750-2500 B.C. This 4-inch-high
head was formerly on loan to the Brooklyn museum of Art from 1989
to 2001 and has been consigned by the Stansfeld Collection. It
has a modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It failed to
The woman's head has one steatite inlaid eye remaining and
a very elaborate and impressive striated coiffure.
Sumerian lady is quite lively and interesting, Lot 144 is a most
imposing basalt House God figure, probably from Golan, Chalcolithic,
4th Millennium B.C., that is highly abstract and fine. The 10
3/8-inch-high zoomorphic form with a flaring cylindrical body
recessed at the top has a very conservative estimate of $6,000
to $9,000. It sold for $19,150.