By Carter B.
One of the great images in art
is the famous
Laocoõn statue in the Vatican collections that show Laocoõn
and his sons in agony with a writhing snake.
Their exaggerated and
tormented, but memorable
expressions are of the type found on the face of a Late Hellenistic
marble head that is the highlight of this antiquities sale.
The head, Lot 321, is dated
circa 2nd Century
"Perhaps depicting a giant, the
expressive head thrown back and inclined to the left, the muscles
of the neck taut from the movement, the face with strongly modeled,
undulated brows, the large, deep-set, bulging eyes recessed for
now-missing inlays, with straight nose and square chin, the upper
row of teeth visible within his parted lips, the face framed by
Alexanderesque upswept wavy locks," is the way Christie’s
begins to describe this 15-inch-high head.
"The style of this magnificent
head, with its knotted row and exaggerated expression, finds its
closest parallels with the so-called 'baroque' style of the High
Hellenistic period…Compare for example the heads of defeated
Celts which were original part of a Pergamene dedication on the
Athenian Acropolis, known from Roman copies now in Venice and
Paris….The same expression is met on the heads of Laocoõn
and his sons on the famous group now in the Vatican.….Closest
to the present head at the giants, such as Alkyoneus, from the
Gigagantomachy frieze of the 'Great Altar' of Pergamon,"
The catalogue notes that the
hair at the top of the head [was] originally finished in a separately
carved stone, the back of the head hollowed out, suggesting this
was once located against or near a wall." The fact that the
piece, therefore, is not completely three-dimensional may have
been a factor in its estimate of $300,000 to $400,000, which is
ambitious for a "head" but not considering its poignant
expression and its size. It sold for $222,500, including the
buyer's premium as do all the prices in this article.
Another Roman marble head, Lot
374, also has
parted lips and exposed teeth. It depicts a satyr with an animated
expression and is dated circa the middle of the 2nd Century, A.D.
The 12 7/8-inch-high head, which has a horn visible under the
curls, has an estimate of only $10,000 to $15,000. It sold
The sale has several other good
Lot 324 is a Roman marble head of Apollo, circa 1st Century, B.C.,
10 ½-inches hall, with an ambitious estimate of $80,000
to $120,000. It is a Roman variant of the so-called "Omphalos"
Apollo that the catalogue said is "known from nearly a dozen
divergent versions, all based on a Greek original of circa 460
B.C. It failed to sell. Lot 328 is a fine Roman
head of a goddess, 13 ¼ inches high, from about the same
period with an estimate of $50,000 to $80,000. It sold for
$244,500. Lot 376 is a 13 ½-inch-high Roman marble
portrait of a man, circa mid-3rd Century A.D., that has an estimate
of $50,000 to $80,000. It sold for $48,300.
There are several nice Roman
lot 442, a Roman bronze group, circa 1st Century, A.D., a 13-inch-high
work, that the catalogue says is "probably after a Hellenistic
original of the 3rd/2nd Century B.C., with the youthful, athletic
hero Euphemus carrying the Triton Eurypylus" whose serpentine
legs coil around those of Euphemus and who is holding a turtle
in his left hand. The catalogue notes that its provenance "possibly
associated with Francesco Sforza and later François I of
France. It has a conservative estimate of $50,000 to $80,000.
It sold for $123,500.
There are numerous very good
Condition, of course, always is
factor in antiquities. The cover illustration of the catalogue,
Lot 403, is a pair of Nubian wooden furniture supports of wonderful
color and charming carving but some quite visible damage. The
19 3/4-inch-high wooden works have a marvelous dark red brown
patina and their painted designs seem as fresh as yesterday despite
the fact that they date from the Napatan Period, 8th-4th Century,
B.C. The works have an estimate of $50,000 to $80,000 and given
the continued rising collector interest in Egyptian works is
and would probably have been much higher if the damage, which
is slight, were less visible. One of the works is more considerably
more damaged than the other and the estimate would probably be
not much less just for the better piece alone, but it is always
nicer to have a "complete" or fuller set if only because
it permits one to see the individuality of each piece and to appreciate
the better ones even more." It sold for $57,000.
There are several other very
fine Roman pieces.
Lot 412 is a Roman parcel gilt
silver box lid,
circa late 1st Century, B.C./1st Century, A.D., 3 1/4 inches wide.
The very high relief depicts several sacrificial animals and has
a conservative estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for
Lot 413 is a Roman silver spoon
and fork, circa
1st Century, A.D., that has a handle with the forepart of a leopard
rising on the head of a griffin. The 6 1/8-inch-long utensil has
a conservative estimate of $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for
Lot 415 is a Roman bronze
statue of Venus wrapping
a breast band around himself. The piece is circa 1st Century,
A.D., and is 5 1/2 inches high. It has a conservative estimate
of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $10,925.
Lot 417 is a Roman bronze
statue of Victoria,
circa 1st Century A.D. The finely carved piece has a nice patina
and is 6 7/8 inches high and has an conservative estimate of $8,000
to $12,000. It failed to sell.
Lot 426 is a very interesting
finial, circa early 7th Century, B.C., of a siren from the Sarti
Collection that is 2 1/2 inches high and has an estimate of $3,000
to $5,000. It was passed.
is a magnificent Roman
bronze lamp in the form of Osiris-Attis, probably Egypt, circa
2nd Century A.D., 11 3/8 inches long. The lamp, shown above, is
in the form of a youth enveloped in mummy bandages, wearing an
eagle headdress and encircled by a serpent. It has a very conservative
estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 and is one of the finest works to
be offered at auction this fall. It sold for $20,500.
and 323 are very handsome
Roman terracotta "campagna" reliefs, circa 1st Century,
A.D., both with conservative estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. The
former is 24 3/8 inches high and the latter is 23 7/8 inches high.
Lot 322 sold for $51,750. Lot 323 sold for $43,700.
is an excellent Roman
bronze appliqué of a lion, 5 inches long, circa 1st Century,
A.D., that has an estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. It failed to
is a quite bold New
Kingdom painted limestone relief, Dynasty XIX-XX, 1307-1070 B.C.,
27 inches long. It has an ambitious high estimate of $200,000.
It failed to sell.
is a very nice Egypitan
bronze figure of Horus atop an altar, 6 3/4 inches high, Dynasty
XXVI, 664-525 B.C. It has a conservative high estimate of $6,000.
It sold for $6,900.
259, 260 and 261 are collections
of Anatolian marble heads from the Max Bill-Angela Thomas Collection.
Each lot has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. Lot 259
to sell, Lots 260 and 261 each sold for $9,200.
the best offerings is
Lot 498, a North Syrian basalt hedgehog, circa 2nd Millennium,
B.C. The 5 1/4-inch-high work has a conservative estimate of $3,000
to $5,000 and is quite remarkable. It sold for $2,990.
340 lots offered, only
236 were sold, a rather disappointing percentage.