it is small in terms of numbers of lots, the December 11, 2003
Antiquities auction at Sotheby's contains many highly desirable
ancient works of art.
Highlights include a very fine Egyptian ceramic of a hippopotamus,
a superb Egyptian wall-relief, a wonderful small Bactrian head
of a woman with elaborate coiffure, a good Greek bronze figure
of a horse, and a nice marble head of Aphrodite.
Lot 49 is a turquoise faience hippopotamus that is 8 inches long
and is dated to the 11th/12th Dynasty, 1987-1759 B.C. While it
does have the bright blue color of "Willie," the smaller
Egyptian faience hippopotamus at the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
this object is quite large and finely modeled. The catalogue entry
quotes one expert that the people of Prehistoric Egypt viewed
the hippopotamus "as a huge and all devouring monster, like
the Leviathan of biblical legend or the dragon of later eras,"
adding that "With time and the gradual thinning out or withdrawal
southward of the animals, this primeval viewpoint changed, and
the hunting of the hippopotamus became a sport indulged in with
zest by servants of the kings and nobles of the Old Kingdom, who
are frequently represented harpooning the great beasts from light
skiffs of papyrus." The lot has an estimate of $90,000 to
$140,000. It sold for $153,600 including the buyer's premium
as do all results mentioned in this article.
and less impressive, albeit quite graceful, is Lot 33, a Greek
bronze figure of a horse, Geometric Period, 8th Century B.C. The
3 5/8-inch high figure was sold at Sotheby's June 5, 1999 (see
City Review article) by the estate of Mrs.
John Hay Whitney for
$170,000. It had then been estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 but
works from the collection of Mr. and Mrs. John Hay Whitney have
proven to be formidable provenance. The estimate for this lot
for this auction is $100,000 to $150,000, perhaps reflecting that
it is back on the auction block so soon. It sold for $120,000.
returnee is Lot 36, a Greek bronze figure of a youth, circa Late
4th/3rd Century B.C., that was sold for $79,500 at Sotheby's in
the Antiquities from the Collection of the Late Christos G. Bastis
auction December 9, 1999 (see The City
Review article). At that time, this
statuette, which is exceeding graceful despite missing the right
arm, had had an ambitiously high estimate of $150,000. The estimate
for this lot for this auction is $60,000 to $90,000. It sold
Lot 42 is
a very handsome Egyptian limestone relief that the catalogue dates
Old Kingdom, early 6th Dynasty, circa 2345-2300. It measures 17
¾ by 56 ¾ inches and is in very good condition apart
from two vertical breaks. It was once in the collection of Sheldon
and Barbara Breitbart and the catalogue notes that a closely related
relief is in the Hermitage Museum. It has five representations
of the priest of Ptah and overseer of the house Impy, his good
name Ptah-shepsus. It has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It sold for $265,000.
illustration of this auction's catalogue is Lot 12, a marble head
of Aphrodite that is Late Hellenistic or early Roman Imperial,
circa 1st Century B.C. The nicely modelled head is 9 inches high
and has an estimate of $75,000 to $125,000. It sold for
The catalogue entry for the note observes that it was
inspired by the Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles of circa 350
12 is missing its body, Lot 15 is missing its head. Lot 14 is
an eroded but still intriguing seated Greek marble figure of a
goddess that is 33 inches high. The catalogue dates the piece
to circa the 2nd half of the 4th Century B.C. The handsome lot
comes from a corporate collection and once was in the collection
of the Edward H. Merrin Gallery in New York. It has a modest estimate
of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $36,000.
The marble head of Aphrodite in Lot 12 would make a good companion
piece to Lot 15A, a marble torso of Aphrodite, Roman Imperial,
circa 1st Century A.D. The catalogue notes that this work is "after
a Hellenistic sculpture similar to the type of the Aphrodite of
Syracuse, circa 2nd Century B.C. The 27-inch high sculpture has
an estimate of $60,000 to $90,000. It sold for $153,600.
Lot 35 consists
of three Greek bronze griffin head protomes from the shoulder
of a cauldron. The impressive heads are mounted separately on
angled bases and are very dramatic despite ranging in height,
exclusive of the bases, of 3 5/8 to 3 7/8 inches. The catalogue
dates the works to circa late 7th Century B.C. They have a modest
estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $45,000.
One of the
finest works to be offered in this auction is Lot 61, a very impressive
head of a goddess or priestess that is either from Bactria or
Margiana, circa 2000-1750 B.C. Although only 2 9/16-inch high,
its elaborate coiffure is sure to catch the eye. The female head
has a smiling mouth, large inlaid eyes, long grooved eyebrows
and "her centrally parted melon coiffure tied into intersecting
braids at the back and surmounted by a flaring layered headdress."
The catalogue notes that such elaborate headdresses "are
very unusual." The lot has a conservative estimate of $12,000
to $18,000. It sold for $30,000.
Lot 62 is
an impressive Neolithic terracotta figure of a woman circa 1st
half of the 6th Millennium B.C. The 3 5/16-inch long figure was
once in the collection of Ben Heller of New York. The catalogue
describes the work as being "of steatopygous form reclining
in a graceful attitude on her left side and resting on her elbows,
her oval face with wide mouth and nose and large prominent eyes;
traces of red ochre." It is quite a remarkable work that
surely would have fascinated Picasso and assorted Cubists. It
has a conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold
on a somewhat restricted budget but still fascinated by very early
pieces, Lot 64, a Calcite idol, Tell Brak, circa late 4th Millennium
B.C., may be just the thing. The 1 7/8-inch high work is highly
stylized and abstract and appears to depict two adults standing
behind three smaller figures, presumably a "family."
It has an estimate of $5,000 to $8,000. It sold for $21,600.
Lot 30 is a fine Umbrian bronze figure of a warrior that is 6
5/8 inches tall. The catalogue dates it circa 3rd Century B.C.
The figure has its right hand raised and probably once held a
spear. It has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It failed
Lot 37 is a much larger and more finely modelled bronze figure
of a youth, Roman Imperial, circa 1st Century A.D. The 13
work is missing its right arm, but is otherwise apparently in
pristine condition. It has an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000.
It failed to sell.