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Antiquities

Sotheby's

2 PM, December 9, 2003

Sale 7949

Egyptian faience hippopotamus

Lot 49, figure of a hippopotamus, turquoise faience, 8 inches long, 11th/12th Dynasty, 1987-1759 B.C.

By Carter B. Horsley

Although 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.

Greek bronze horse

Lot 33, horse, bronze, 3 5/8 inches high, Greek, Geometric Period, 8th Period, B.C.

Far daintier 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 The 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.

Greek figure of a youth

Lot 36, figure of a youth, bronze, 8 inches, high, Greek, circa Late 4th/3rd Century B.C.

Another 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 8-inch high 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 for $72,000.

Egyptian architrave relief

Lot 42, architrave relief, limestone, 17 by 56 inches, Egyptian, Old Kingdom, Early 6th Dynasty, circa 2345-2300 B.C.

Lot 42 is a very handsome Egyptian limestone relief that the catalogue dates Old Kingdom, early 6th Dynasty, circa 2345-2300. It measures 17 by 56 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.

Head of Aphrodite

Lot 12, head of Aphrodite, marble, 9 inches high, late Hellenistic or early Roman Imperial, circa 1st Century B.C.

The cover 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 $90,000. The catalogue entry for the note observes that it was "ultimately inspired by the Aphrodite of Knidos by Praxiteles of circa 350 B.C."

While Lot 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.

Three griffin head protomes

Lot 35, three griffin head protomes, bronze, Greek, circa late 7th Century B.C, 3 5/8 to 3 7/8 inches high

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.

Bactrian or Margiana head of goddess or priestess

Lot 61, head of a goddess or priestess, marble and chlorite, 2 9/16 inches high, Bactria or Margiana, circa 2000-1750 B.C.

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.

Neolithic terracotta figure of a woman

Lot 62, figure of a woman, terracotta, 3 5/16 inches long, Neolithic, circa 1st half of the 6th Millennium B.C.

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 for $187,200.

Calcite idol, Tell Brak

Lot 64, Calcite idol, Tell Brak, 1 7/8 inches high, circa late 4th Millennium B.C.

For those 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 to sell.

Lot 37 is a much larger and more finely modelled bronze figure of a youth, Roman Imperial, circa 1st Century A.D. The 13 1/16-inch-high 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.

See The City Review article on the Spring 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 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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