By Carter B. Horsley
Once again Sotheby's has put its Pre-Columbian Art auction into the same catalogue as its African and Oceanic Art auction. See the separate article on the African and Oceanic Art auction that occurs at 11AM November 11, 2004.
Although it is not a large auction, this Pre-Columbian Art auction at Sotheby's November 11, 2004, has many choice items.
One of the highlights is Lot 255, a large, impressive, Maya, lidded blackware vessel, Early Classic, circa 250-450 A.D. The 10 ½-by-14-inch vessel has rattle tetrapod legs, flaring walls and a concave base. It is finely incised with two panels with the emblem of the Underworld, the zoomorphic creative with scrolled pupil within squared eye and opposed undulating scrolls at each side. The fitted lid is topped with a slithering iguana with the Venus symbol of spiked crescents decorating its limbs. The lot has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $114,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
There are several other fine Mayan works in the auction.
Lot 256 is a "fine" Mayan Codex vessel, Late Classic, that is dated about 550-950 A.D. The 3 1/2-inch high vessel and its "iconography eloquently illustrates one of the most important figures of the Maya pantheon, the aged deity Pawahtuun, a principal god of the scribes, instructing would-be lords," according to the catalogue. "The cylindrical base with slightly flared walls," the catalogue noted, "masterfully painted in deep brown on the cream ground in a fluid and expressive style, depicting two scenes with the aged deity Pawahtuun, the god of writing and art, distinguished by netted scarf with a brush wedged into the ties, large square eye, and Roman nose, in animated lessons with two young disciples, on one side the aged lord leaning forward and pointing with an implement towards the folded codes, looking directly at his students as he recites the bar-and-dot numbers emanating from his mouth shown above before and before him...."
The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for $299,200.
Lot 299 is a handsome Mayan painted bowl, Late Classic, circa 550-950 A.D. It is 7 1/4 inches high and has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $13,200. It is painted with two scenes of the twin Hun Ahau fighting with an elaborately dressed warrior.
Lot 298 is an impressive Mayan carved tripod vessel that is dated Early Classic, circa 250-450 A.D. The 6 1/8-inch high vessel stands on pierced slab feet of Teotihuacan style and is, according to the catalogue, "crisply carved with four panels of profile heads." The object has a distinctly similar style to early geometric-style Chinese bronze vessels. It has an estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for $9,000.
Lot 296 is a graceful Mayan statue of a standing dignitary that is dated circa 550-950 A.D. The 9 7/8-inch high figure has a "highly elongated nosebridge and a goatee and traces of bright Mayan blue pigment. It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It sold for $16,800.
Lot 261 is a large Mayan stucco figure of a kneeling attendant, dated 550-950 A.D. The work has extensive remains of deep reddish brown and green pigment. It was once in the Jay C. Leff Collection. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It failed to sell.
The most impressive work in the auction is Lot 240, a wonderful female figural gray green stone scepter that is Guerrero, possibly Xochipala region. The work, which would clearly be much enjoyed by Isamu Noguchi and Rufino Tamayo, is dated late Preclassic, circa 300-100 B.C., and is 15 1/2 inches high. It has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $36,000.
Lot 250 is a very expressive articulated Veracruz figure holding a rattle. The Veracruz figure is dated circa 450-650 A.D., and is 22 inches high. It has an estimate of $9,000 to $12,000. It sold for $16,800.
Lot 250 is a quite bold Mayan hacha of a bird that is 10 3/8 inches high. It is dated circa 550-950 A.D. It has an estimate of $7,000 to $9,000. It sold for $18,000.
Lot 204 is a fine pair of Moche gold and turquoise ear ornaments that measure 1 1/4 inches in diameter each. They depict a deer with a spear in its back and are dated circa 200-500 A.D. The lot has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $9,000.
Another highlight of the auction was Lot 210, a Tumaco figure of a shark, coastal region, circa 300 B.C.-300 A.D., and 22 1/2 inches long. The reddish-colored pottery is boldly modeled and has a modest estimate of $5,000 to $6,000. It sold for $11,400.