Carter B. Horsley
Although this auction of
Antiquities at Sotheby's
has only 111 lots, less than a third of the number offered this
season at Christie's, it is highlighted by several fine Roman
and Greek works.
One of the smallest, but
loveliest is Lot 106,
a 2 3/8-inch-high plasma figure of a deity that is dated Roman
Imperial, circa 1st Century A.D. It has an estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It sold for $48,000 including the buyer's premium
as do all results mentioned in this article. The catalogue
entry for the lot notes that the gold head is "probably a
later addition," adding that the deity holds "an unidentified
object in the right hand and a fragmentary attribute in the left
Lot 51 is an impressive marble
statue of Pan
with a Nymph that is dated Roman Imperial, circa 2nd Century A.D.
It is 51 inches high and the catalogue notes that it is "inspired
by Hellenistic prototypes, with 18th and 19th Century European
restorations. "For the only other known replica of this type,"
the catalogue entry continued, "see the group in the Vatican
Museums, which was acquired by Pope Clement XIV from Thomas Jenkins,"
adding that Both the present and the Vatican statues combine elements
from two Hellenistic compositions often copied in Roman times:
the nymph comes from the “Invitation to the Dance” group,
in which a seated nymph fastens her sandal for the dance while
a satyr snaps his fingers and plays the foot-clapper....The present
group might not have appeared as straightforward to an ancient
viewer as it does to a modern observer. The figure on the right
might not be a nymph after all, but Hermaphroditos, the son of
Hermes and Aphrodite, and Pan’s gesture of lifting the drapery
might represent, beyond the obvious sign of his lustful intentions,
the dramatic and suspensful moment preceding the discovery of
his companion’s gender. If this is indeed the case, the group
could be the ambiguous start to a broader erotic narrative of
which several Hellenistic marble groups would depict the ensuing
moment: the drapery has fallen off, thus revealing Hermaphroditos
ambiguous identity, but Pan grabs his playmate and throws him
on his lap in spite of the latter’s attempt to escape by
pushing him away....The Hellenistic element of theatrical surprise,
or rather the anticipation of it, which is so central to
of the sleeping Hermaphrodite (see Pollitt, op. cit., p. 149),
probably plays a role in the present group as well."
It has an estimate of $150,000
It failed to sell.
The cover illustration of this
is a detail of Lot 64, a marble Roman Imperial relief fragment
from the corner of a sarcophagus depicting the abduction of Persephone
by Hades with Hermes leading the way into the Underworld. Dated
circa 225-250 A.D., the fragment is 21 inches high. "This
important myth, with its emphasis on death and renewal,"
the catalogue entry observed, "was particularly appropriate
for sarcophagus decoration. It was at the centre of the Greek
fertility cult known as the Eleusinian mysteries, which promised
their initiates a better fate in the afterlife, and lasted well
into the Roman period
It has an estimate of $100,000
It sold for $120,000.
Another Roman Imperial marble
is Lot 63. It is dated Hadrianic, circa 130 A.D., and measures
19 3/8 by 32 3/4 inches. The present relief, according to the
catalogue, "was once built into the wall of the courtyard
of the Palazzo Martelli in Florence, where it was coupled with
another sarcophagus fragment depicting tritons and naiads flanking
a portrait bust (now in the Indiana University Art Museum: Guide
to the Collections, Bloomington, Ind., 1980, p. 61); it is there
that the celebrated Florentine painter Giovanni Domenico Ferretti
(1692-1768) made a drawing of it...." The lot was an estimate
of $75,000 to $125,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 62 is a fine marble
portrait head of Menander,
Late Roman Imperial, circa 4th/5th Century A.D. It is 11 1/2 inches
high and depicts the Athenian poet of the New Comedy, circa 342-293
B.C. The present head," the catalogue maintained, "was
probably part of a set of portraits representing Greek philosophers
and men of letters, such as the late 5th Century A.D. group found
at Aphrodisias, which included Pindar, Aristotle, Alcibiades,
Pythagoras, and probably Menander as well....The renowned and
erudite poet Menander was born in Athens circa 342 B.C. to
and well-to-do parents. He wrote over one-hundred works and achieved
a reputation for a remarkable inventiveness, the skilful arrangement
of his plots, realistic depiction of characters, and a refined
and amusing wit. Menander died at the height of his powers at
age fifty-two, drowning while bathing in the waters of Piraeus.
His plays were copied and read well into the early Byzantine period,
even though they were probably no longer performed." It has
an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 65 is a small and very
relief panel, Roman Imperial, Antonine, circa 150-175 A.D. It
measures 11 1/4 by 15 3/4 inches and is carved with Dionysos and
Ariadne riding in a lion-drawn chariot. It has a modest estimate
of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $27,000.
Lot 73 is a nice pair of Roman
circa 2nd Century A.D. The handles are 4 11/16 inches in diameter.
The lot has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for
Lot 69 is a very nice bronze
figure of Isis-Aphrodite,
Roman, circa 2nd Century A.D. It is possible, the catalogue notes,
"that the base originally supported ancillary figures such
as Priapus or erotes." The statue is 8 1/4 inches high and
has an estimate of $5,000 to $8,000. It sold for $8,400.
Lot 46 is an impressive Greek
marble head of
a goddess, Hellenistic Period, circa mid-2nd Century B.C. It is
16 1/2 inches high.
The catalogue entry for this
lot observes that
"Bernard Andreae...notes that the present head bears a close
resemblance to the relief head of Artemis on the east frieze of
the Pergamon Altar." "The present head belonged to a
monumental cult statue which might have been shown enthroned,
like the cult statue of Demeter from her sanctuary at Knidos,
now in the British Museum...," the entry continued, "or
as a standing draped figure perhaps like the clothed Aphrodite
offered by Praxiteles to the people of Knidos who rejected her
in favor of her famed nude counterpart.....While the identity
of the goddess represented here is open to debate in the absence
of attributes, her sensuous mouth and swanlike neck with prominent
Venus-rings suggest Aphrodite. The back of the head is carved
flat for attachment to a separately sculpted body, while the crown
is stippled for the attachment of a veil or perhaps the fold of
a garment." It has an estimate of $500,000 to $800,000. It
sold for $721,000.
Lot 54 is a Greek bronze
helmet, Crete, Orientalizing
Period, circa mid-7th Century B.C.
The catalogue notes that the
crown is "incised
with a continuous row of alternating arches and palmettes supporting
four mythological scenes divided by vertical ridges and comprising
a warrior departing from a woman raising her hands in a gesture
of mourning, the warrior holding a circular shield and wearing
greaves, corslet, and high-crested Cretan helmet; Apollo kitharoidos
flanked by two pairs of birds in flight and accompanied by a striding
figure wearing a short garment before a lion regardant; a centaur
holding an arrow (?), probably Chiron, accompanied by a standing
figure; and Perseus presenting Medusa's head to Athena in a cauldron
(?), the goddess wearing a long robe incised with rosettes, aegis,
and high-crested Cretan helmet; an incised animal figure below
a rosette in each of the four spandrels above, the crest ornamented
with alternating ridges and finely incised rows of guilloche,
wave pattern, and interlace."
The catalogue noted that "for
other known exemple of this Cretan type see the closely related
mid-7th Century B.C. fragmentary helmet now at the Museum für
Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg....The form of the 7th-Century high-crested
Cretan helmet derives from Oriental prototypes, such as the Assyrian
helmets depicted on wall-reliefs from the Central Palace at Nimrud,
from the time of Tiglat-Pilesar, 745-727 B.C....The four mythological
scenes on this helmet count among what Max Wegner calls
with their iconographical experiments these vignettes set the
stage for the development of Greek myth in art, and "were
viable seeds sown on fertile ground, from which were reaped, in
the sixth century, a magnificent harvest of narrative pictures
" (Greek Masterworks of Art, New York, 1961, p. 74).
The 17-inch high helmet has an
$250,000 to $350,000. It sold for $508,800.
Lot 57 is a fine Sardinian
bronze figure of
a warrior that is dated circa 9th/7th Century B.C. The 7-inch
high figure has an estimate of $50,000 to $80,000. It failed
Lot 13 is a very good Egyptian
fragment from the second half of the 6th Dynasty, circa 2440-2195
B.C. It measures 42 1/2 by 43 1/2 inches. It has an estimate of
$75,000 to $125,000. It sold for $84,000.
Lot 15 is an excellent Egyptian
fragment, 19th Dynasty, Period of Ramesses II, 1279-1213 B.C.
It measures 14 1/2 by 22 1/8 inches. The catalogue observes that
it is "inscribed for the official Neferhotep and mentioning
the city of Memphis, carved in shallow relief with Neferhotep
kneeling with his hands raised in adoration before a statue of
the god Atum, Neferhotep wearing a diaphanous pleated garment,
double-stranded gold necklace (the "Gold of Valor"),
short beard, and striated wig with layered curls at the shoulder,
Atum holding an ankh in the right hand and was-scepter in the
left, and wearing a kilt, tunic with shoulder-straps, broad collar,
curled beard, and the crown of Upper and Lower Egypt with spiral,
his ceremonial bull's tail falling in front, an offering table
laden with lotus flowers and libation vessels between the figures,
columns of inscription in the field; remains of blue and red pigment."
It has an estimate of $60,000
to $80,000. It
sold for $144,000.
Lot 19 is a fine Egyptian
mummy pectoral from the Later Ptolemaic Period, 200-30 B.C. It
measures 10 3/4 by 14 inches. It has a modest estimate of $6,000
to $9,000. It sold for $10,800.
Lot 6 is a very fine pair of
canopic jars from the 19th Dynasty, 1292-1240 B.C. One is 16 1/2
inches high and the other 16 3/16 inches high. The jars are inscribed
for Amenemipet of Memphis, Child of the Royal Nursery. "The
goddess Neith is invoked on one jar to watch over the god Duamutef
and the contents, namely the stomach. On the other jar, the goddess
Nephthys is invoked to extend her protection over the god Imsety
and the contents, the liver," according to the catalogue.
The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for
Lot 8 is an Egyptian banded
jar from the 26th Dynasty, 664-525 B.C. It is 13 inches high.
It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $90,000.
Lot 43 is a Cycladic marble
figure of a goddess
that is 9 11/16 inches high. It is dated to the Early Bronze Age
II, circa 2600-2500 B.C. It has an estimate of $175,000 to $225,000.
It failed to sell.