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Antiquities

Christie's

10 AM, December 11, 2003

Sale 1314

Roman bronze figure of an emperor

Lot 228, Roman bronze figure of an emperor, circa Late 2nd-Early 3rd Century A.D, 71 ½ inches high

By Carter B. Horsley

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.

Roman Art



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.

Emperor Trajan

Lot 211, Roman portrait head of the Emperor Trajan, marble, 22 ½ inches high

Lot 211 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."

"While 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.

Trajan is 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 $47,800.

Roman head of Septimius Severus

Lot 232, Roman marble portrait head of Emperor Septimius Severus, 16 ¼ inches high

Lucius Septimius 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.

Roman incense shovel

Lot 235, a Roman bronze incense shovel, circa 2nd-3rd Century A.D., 11 1/8 inches long

The auction 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.

There are 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.

Jupiter Heliopolitanos

Lot 212, figure of Jupiter Heliopolitanos, Roman, bronze, 4 7/8 inches high, circa 1st Century A.D.

Lot 212 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.

Roman bronze pig

Lot 200, pig, Roman, bronze, circa 1st Century B.C.-1st Century A.D., 3 inches long

Without 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 Art

Among the 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.

Greek marble head of a girl

Lot 159, head of a young girl, marble, Greek, Classical Period, circa 4th Century B.C., 6 ¼ inches high

Lot 159 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.

Egyptian Art

Egyptian granite head of a man

Lot 25, head of a man, granite, Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period, circa 2nd-1st Century B.C., 6 inches high

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.

Egyptian cippus or magical stele

Lot 75, cippus or magical stele, steatite, Egyptian, Ptolemaic Period, 304-30 B.C., 8 ¾ inches high

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 $20,315.

Vulture goddess Nekhbet

Lot 22, figure of the vulture goddess Nekhbet, black serpentine, Egyptian, Late Period, Dynasty XXVI-XXX, 664-332 B.C., 4 ¼ inches high

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.

Egyptian Ba bird

Lot 23, Ba bird, Egyptian, polychrome sandstone, 7 ½ inches high, Late Ptolemaic to Early Roman Period, circa 1st Century B.C.-1st Century A.D.

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.

Another 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.

Lady Ibetet

Lot 33, Lady Ibetet, wood, Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, Dynasty XII, 12 ¾ inches high

For those 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.

Egyptian scarab

Lot 19, scarab, Egyptian, Late Period, Dynasty XXVI, Reign of Psamtik I, 664-610 B.C., hematite, 1 inch long

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.

Near Eastern Art

North Syrian silver deity

Lot 110, deity, silver, North Syrian, circa 2nd Millennium B.C., 7 ¾ inches high

Lot 110 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.

Syrian calcite-alabaster elephant

Lot 105, elephant, calcite-alabaster, Syrian, circa 3rd Millennium B.C., 3 ½ inches long

Whoever 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.

Bactrian idol of a bird man

Lot 98, idol of a bird man, white stone, Bactrian, circa 3rd Millennium B.C., 3 5/8 inches high

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.

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Antiquities and Antique Jewelry auctions Dec. 12-3, 2002 at Christie's

See The City Review article on the June 12, 2002 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Antiquities auction at Sotheby's Dec. 8, 2000

See The City Review article on the Dec. 6, 2000 auction of Ancient Jewelry and Seals at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Ancient Greek Vases auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Antique Jewelry evening auction at Christie’s Dec. 8, 1999

See The City Review article on the Dec. 9, 1999 antiquities evening auction at Sotheby's of the Christos G. Bastis Collection

See The City Review article on the Dec. 10, 1999 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the June 5, 1999 Antiquities Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1998 Antiquities auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 Antiquities auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1997 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

 

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