The December 11,
2003 Antiquities auction at Christie's has several impressive
and large Roman Art works and many fascinating and exotic smaller
Roman, Greek, Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern works.
The cover illustration of the catalogue is Lot 228, a monumental
Roman bronze figure of an emperor, circa Late 2nd-Early 3rd Century
A.D. The headless sculpture is 71 ½ inches high and was
once with the Merrin Gallery in New York and was exhibited at
the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston from 1967 to 1970, the Indianapolis
Museum of Art from 1971 to 1974, the Minneapolis Institute of
Art from 1976 to 1980 and the Rutgers University Art Gallery from
1981 to 1985.
The catalogue notes that "there are only very few such bronzes
surviving from antiquity, nearly all of which are institutionally
owned." This extremely impressive lot has an estimate on
request. Magnificently modeled, it has a dazzling patina and finish.
In addition to missing its head, it is missing its right arm and
left hand. It sold for $1,799,500 including the buyer's premium
as do all the results mentioned in this article.
is a "colossal" marble head of the Roman Emperor Trajan,
who ruled from 98 to 117 A.D. The catalogue entry for this lot
notes that "Although his portraiture harks back to that of
Augustus, Trajan's images abandon the Augustan taste for an eternally
youthful visage in favor of reflecting the fact that he was forty-five
years old when he came to power. The 22 ½-inch-high head
has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. Although the nose has
been damaged, this is a very impressive head. It sold for $276,300.
An article by Barry Meier in the January 17, 2004 edition of The
New York Times reported that "Federal authorities yesterday
seized a large portrait of the Roman Emperor Trajan that was a
centerpiece of a major antiquities auction last month at Christie's,
saying it was stolen six years ago from a museum in Rome, a spokeswoman
for Christie's said."
Christie's represented the piece in its catalogu as an antiquity,"
the article continued, "it now appears that it is probably
a reproduction made in the 17th Century, according to a complaint
filed by the United States office in Manhattan. Margaret Doyle,
a spokeswoman for Christie's, said the auction house had relied
on information provided by the seller, who was identified only
as a collector in Linz, Austria." The article said that Federal
officials maintained that the sculpture "had been stolen
from a storage area at the Capitoline Museum in Rome in January
1998, adding that the auction house was contacted by federal officials
"while the antiquities auction was in progress." Christie's
spokeswoman, the article said, stated that Christie's decided
to proceed with the auction "but not to release the piece
to its buyer until the United States attorney's office could investigate,"
adding that Christie's had sent a copy of the auction catalogue
a month before the auction to the Art Loss Registry but had not
heard of any problems.
also depicted on a much, much smaller scale in chalcedony in Lot
210 where his 2 1/16-inch-bust rests on an ornate stand. The empero,
who was known for personally commanding his army from the frontlines,
is depicted with his hair brushed forward and a long curving nose.
The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Severus is another Roman emperor represented in the auction. Lot
232 is a marble portrait head of him that is 16 ¼ inches
high. He reigned from 193-211 A.D., and had been born in Leptis
Magna, North Africa. The catalogue notes that in 196 A.D., "he
had himself retroactively adopted into the Antoinine family,"
adding that "he then had his young son, Caracalla, declared
Caesar in order to ensure his succession." Although the nose
is damaged, this is a striking bust and has an estimate of $150,000
to $250,000. It sold for $186,700.
has several other fine Roman pieces. Lot 235 is a very handsome
incense shovel that is dated circa 2nd to 3rd Century A.D. The
11 1/8-inch long bronze shovel is highly ornate with eagles standing
over goat heads on the front corners, and a winged Victoria with
a laurel wreath atop a bust of a lynx. It has a modest estimate
of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $17,925.
several mosaic panels, perhaps the best of which is Lot 248, a
44-by-32 ¾-inch marble panel that is dated by the catalogue
as circa 2nd Century A.D. The center of the panel illustrates
a water-filled krater on which a parrot and a greenfinch are perched.
A chaffinch is shown pecking at a flower at the upper left, a
large partridge is pecking a foliage in the lower left corner,
and a hoopoe is shown at the bottom right. The lot has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $107,550.
is a very fine Roman bronze figure of Jupiter Heliopolitanos,
circa 1st Century A.D. The 4 7/8-inch high statuette depicts the
cult statue at the Temple of Jupiter at Baalbeck wearing a kalathos,
a wig of echeloned curls, a short chin beard, and sheathed in
a long garment protraying several small heads of deities in registers.
Traces of gilding are still on the piece which is missing attributes
that were held in the figure's raised hands. The lot has a very
conservative estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $5,736.
doubt the cutest object in this auction is Lot 200, a small Roman
bronze pig. The 3-inch-long work is dated in the catalogue circa
1st Century B.C.-1st Century A.D. This is clearly an important
ancestor of Piglet. It has an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It
sold for $9,560.
Lot 189 is a deep blue-green glass Roman gaming die that has 20
sides, each incised with a distinct symbol. The die is 2 1/16
inches wide and the catalogue dates it circa 2nd Century A.D.,
and notes that it was acquired by its current owner's father in
Egypt in the 1920s and that several polyhedra in various materials
with similar symbols are known but "modern scholarship has
not yet established the game for which these dice were used."
It has a modest estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $17,925.
Greek objects in the auction, the most outstanding is Lot 167,
an impressive parcel gilt silver rhyton from the Hellenistic Period,
circa 1st Century B.C. The 13-inch-long horn-shaped vessel terminates
in a goat protome. Although the goat's front legs are missing,
this is an imposing piece. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.
It sold for $50,190.
is a very beautiful Greek marble head of a young girl that the
catalogue dates to the Classical Period, circa 4th Century B.C.
"Depicted under-lifesized, the head turned slightly to her
right, wearing a crescentic diadem in her curly hair, which is
gathered above each earher lips curved into a subtle smile,"
the entry notes. "This head," the entry continued, "is
likely from a figure of a child votary and is related to a group
of small marble figures in this scale and style, the so-called
Arktoi or `bears,' young girls who provided cult functions
at the temple of Artemis at Brauron near Athens." Anyone
who likes da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" would most likely very
much like this smiling, 6 ¼-inch-high head, which has a
modest estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $19,120.
A fine companion
piece for Lot 159 is Lot 25, an Egyptian granite head of a man
of almost identical size. The 6-inch high head is dated by the
catalogue as Ptolemaic Period, circa 2nd-1st Century B.C. "This
head is characteristic of a small group of sculptures from the
later Ptolemaic period that seem to combine native Egyptian and
Greek elements. The presence of the back pillar is purely Egyptian,
so too the preference for hard stone; the coiffure is more in
keeping with Greek taste. Typical of these heads is the highly
polished surface of the face, which reveals the natural (in this
case black) color of the stone, in contrast with the textured
surface of the hair, which appears gray," the entry noted.
It has an estimate of $40,000 to $50,000. It sold for $53,775.
Lot 75 is
a marvelous steatite cippus or magical stele that is Egyptian,
Ptolemaic Period, 304-30 B.C. The 8 3/-4-inch high object comes
from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Bing. Sculpted in high
relief, it has a mask of Bes at the top protecting the nude Horus
child beneath who holds scorpions and serpents and stands on a
triad of superimposed crocodiles. This wonderful object has a
very conservative estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for
Lot 22 is
a superb black serpentine Egyptian statuette of the vulture goddess
Nekhbet. The finely modeled, 4 ¼-inch-high statue is dated
by the catalogue as Late Period, Dynasty XXVI-XXX, 664-332 B.C.
It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. Nekhbet was the protectress
of Upper Egypt and is sometimes depicted as a cobra wearing the
White Crown. It sold for $45,410.
A nice companion
piece to Lot 22 is Lot 23, an Egypitan polychrome sandstone Ba
bird, Late Ptolemaic to Early Roman Period, circa 1st Century
B.C.-1st Century A.D. The 7 ½-inch high statuette has an
estimate of $5,000 to $7,000. The Ba bird is the figural representation
of the character of a deceased person, often thought of as the
soul, according to the catalogue. It sold for $8,365.
A more popular object is a bronze cat and Lot 50, another property
from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. Leo S. Bing, is a nice 10
¾-inch high Egyptian bronze figure of a cat, Third Intermediate
Period, Dynasty XXI-XXV, 1070-712 B.C. The hollow-cast piece is
seated with ears pierced for the addition of now-missing earrings.
It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $65,725.
Bing piece is Lot 42, an Egyptian bust of a queen, New Kingdom,
Dynasty XIX-XX, 1307-1070 B.C. The 9 3/8-inch-high brown quartzite
bust has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $83,650.
not satisfied with only a bust, Lot 33 is a full-figure, minus
the feet, of the Lady Ibetet, an Egyptian wood figure that is
12 ¾ inches high. The catalogue dates it as Middle Kingdom,
Dynasty XII. The worn but very nicely modeled figure, which is
also missing its arms, has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It
sold for $16,730.
Lot 19 is
a superb Egyptian scarab of a beetle that, the catalogue maintains,
is one of the largest and finest known in hematite inscribed for
Psamtik I, 664-610 B.C. It has a somewhat ambitious estimate of
$30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $119,500.
Lot 3 is
serpentine Egyptian sculpture of Horus as a divine falcon that
the catalogue dates to Early Dynastic Period 0 to Early Dynasty
I, circa 3100-2900 B.C. The sculpture is 5 29/32 inches long and
of abstract form with slightly modeled bulging eyes, a well articulated
beak and detailed legs underneath. The catalogue notes that the
indication of four talons rather than three found on mortal birds
suggests that this is a "divine" falcon. It has an estimate
of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $65,725.
is a stylized figure of a deity that is North Syrian, circa 2nd
Millennium B.C. The silver figure is 7 ¾ inches high and
has a circular depression on its chest, perhaps for inlay. Although
it is missing its arms and legs, it is a strong piece and has
an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $101,545.
gets the adorable Roman bronze pig, Lot 100, will probably bid
on Lot 106, a Syrian calcite-alabaster elephant that is dated
in the catalogue as circa 3rd Millennium B.C. The 3 ½-inch-long
abstract elephant whose ears are depicted as spirals has a modest
estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $2,390.
Larger and more conventional is Lot 107, a Central Asian stone
figure of a mouflon that is 8 ¼ inches long. The stylized
sheep is dated circa 2600 to 1900 B.C., and has an estimate of
$20,000 to $30,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 104 is a fine Bactrian ritual object that is a waisted cylinidrical
form encircled vertically by a single shallow groove. Brown with
cream inclusions, it is 11 ½ inches high and is dated circa
Late 3rd-Early 2nd Millennium B.C. These Noguchi-like sculptures
are extremely handsome and this lot has a modest estimate of $3,000
to $5,000. It sold for $5,378.
Lot 98 is
a magnificently stylized and abstract white stone idol of a bird
man that is Bactrian, circa 3rd Millennium B.C. The 3 5/8-inch-high
figure has a conservative estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It
sold for $31,070.