By Carter B. Horsley
In 1987, 188 antiquities assembled by Christos
G. Bastis, a well-known New York restaurateur, became the first
private collection of ancient art to be exhibited at the Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
Born in Volos, Greece, Mr. Bastis came to the
United States in 1922 made his first ancient art acquisition,
a late 6th Century B.C. Chalcidian oinochoe, in 1941 in New York
and several years later opened a restaurant, Sea Fare, on West
8th Street in Greenwich Village that he would later move uptown
to West 56th Street and named Sea Fare of the Aegean.
In 1948, Mr. Bastis lend his oinochoe to the
Metropolitan Museum and would be encouraged by Dietrich von Bothmer,
chairman of the museum's department from 1959 to 1990, who also
introduced him to his brother, Bernard Bothmer, then of the Brooklyn
Museum, who strengthened his appreciation of Egyptian art.
Bastis would became an honorary trustee of
the Metropolitan Museum, a member of the advisory committee to
the board of trustees of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which exhibited
many pieces in his collection, a trustee of the Onassis Foundation
and the Atlantic Bank of New York and honorary chairman of the
Foundation for Hellenic Culture.
In an essay on Mr. Bastis, who died in May,
1999 at the age of 95, Dr. Carlos Arturo Pic6n, curator-in-charge
of the Department of Greek and Roman Art at the Metropolitan Museum,
noted that was "a very loyal supporter of the Museum, making
objects freely and frequently available, underwriting scholarly
publications, and providing the funds for a wide range of acquisitions."
In 1998, he established the Bastis Purchase Fund at the museum,
Dr. Pic6n said. "A strong advocate of exchange exhibitions
between Greek museums and the Metropolitan, his personal initiative
was instrumental in bringing the first post-war display of antiquities
from the Republic of Greece to the United States, 'Greek Art of
the Aegean Islands,"' Dr. Pic6n wrote. The oinochoe he purchased
in 1941 became the first gift in kind received by the new Cycladic
Art Foundation, which is an extension of the Goulandris Museum
of Cycladic Art, in 1998.
This is a large evening sale with 167 lots.
It got off to a sensational start with Lot
1, a 1 5/8-inch-high bronze face of Osiris, 21st/23rd Dynasty,
1075-732 B.C. This very beautiful but small sculpture had an estimate
of $8,000 to $12,000 and sold for $79,500 including the buyer's
premium as do all prices in this article. There were very
few lots that failed to sell, indeed more than 97 percent of them
were sold and most exceeded their high estimates, in sharp contrast
to the Antique Jewelry sale at Christie's the night before in
which several of the most important lots failed to sell. This
sale signaled a quantum increase in values for many categories
of antiquities, but also reflected the continuing success of the
auction houses in conducting "single collector" sales.
Egyptian Art continued to be very much in vogue, but increased
attention is being paid to very early cultures as well. The sale
totaled $9,248,745, exceeded only by the $11,398,200 sold at the
Nelson Bunker Hunt Collection of Highly Important Greek Vases/The
William Herbert Hunt Collection of Highly Important Greek, Roman
and Etruscan Bronzes at Sotheby's Dec. 19, 1990.
Lot 69, a Greek bronze figure of a warrior,
circa 530-520 B.C., is one of the auction's highlights. The 5
5/8-inch-high statue, shown above, is in superb condition and
the catalogue notes that a similar figure is in the Ortiz Collection
and they probably both came "from the same votive ensemble,
such as vessel and tripod, or the like." The figure's left
hand once held a circular shield and the right hand a spear. It
has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000 that is a bit ambitious
considering its size and was formerly in the collection of Nicholas
Koutoulakis. It sold for $387,500. "Cast solid and
in remarkable condition, the warrior represents the finest in
quality of late 6th Century B.C. Archaic-period Greek sculpture,"
according to Sotheby's.
Another Greek bronze figure is Lot 120, an
8-inch-high statuette of a youth, circa last 4th/3rd Century,
B.C., in a particularly grace pose with his head tilted back "gazing
up in an ecstatic attitude" with his right leg lifted slightly
and his torso turned to the right. The figure is missing his right
arm. The lot has an ambitious high estimate of $150,000. It
sold for $79,500.
Lot 121 is missing both its arms, which may
explain its lower estimate of $40,000 to $60,000, but it is, in
fact, 3/8 inch taller, and of equal quality with a richer patina
of green and red. It is a Hellenistic bronze figure of a Satyr,
circa 3rd/2nd Century B.C., and is very fine. It sold for $31,625.
Other Greek bronzes include Lot 122, a mirror
6 inches in diameter that has a very dramatic, applied repoussé
relief with Herakles reclining on his lion skin and preparing
to seduce Auge, daughter of King Aleus of Tegea. The lot has a
conservative estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $112,500.
Also, Lot 126, a figure of Poseidon, circa
3rd/2nd Century, B.C., that is 5 7/8 inches high and shows the
god in a "vigorous posture with his right arm raised to throw
the trident a leaping hippocamp on the top of his extended left
hand. The piece, which came from the Merrin Gallery, is missing
its right hand and the trident and its right foot. It has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It failed to sell, one of the few passes
of the sale.
Lot 133, is a Hellenistic bronze head of a
horse, circa late 2nd/1st Century B.C., that is 3 1/2 inches
high and comes from the upper headboard of a couch. The lovely
piece has an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000 and was acquired from
Mathias Komor in 1973. It sold for $68,500.
Another fine horse's head is Lot 160, circa
4th/3rd Century B.C., 2 inches tall, which has an estimate of
$6,000 to $9,000. It sold for $13,800.
Lot 58, shown above, is a bronze cheek-piece,
Italo-Geometric, 8th Century, B.C., that is 4 3/4 inches long
that shows a horse with a colt standing on her back and has a
conservative estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $9,775.
There are numerous good examples of Etruscan
Lot 74, for example, is a bronze hippocamp,
circa 2nd half of the 6th Century B.C., riding on top of a curved
tripod support. The lot has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $21,850.
Lot 98, is an Etruscan bronze Thymiaterion,
circa early 5th Century B.C. This 13 1/16-inch-tall work has a
dancing girl playing castanets standing on a tripod base and supporting
the stem of an incense bowl on her head. The highly stylized piece
has an extraordinary skirt and is in very fine condition. A similar
work is in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. It has
an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $222,500.
Lot 101 is a fine example of the lovely goddesses
with a headdress with radiating diadem. The 8 1/2 inch-high bronze
figure has limbs that are almost stick-like and an elongated and
elegant stylization. It has a conservative estimate of $12,000
to $18,000. It is Umbrian, circa 2nd quarter of the 5th Century,
B.C. It sold for $16,100.
Lot 102, is a bronze figure of a warrior from
the same period as Lot 101. The 6 1/8-inch-tall figure is missing
the lower part of its legs and its right arm but it is finely
engraved with quatrefoils and asymmetrical linear motifs. It is
conservatively estimated at $6,000 to $9,000. It sold for $4,887.
Roman bronze pieces are much in evidence, too.
Lot 147 is a figure of a goddess, late Hellenistic
or early Roman Imperial, circa 1st Century B.C./1st Century
A.D. The 20 3/4-inch-tall bronze, which was acquired from the
Merrin Gallery in 1982, has an estimate of $200,000 to $300,000.
The goddess is in excellent condition except for missing arms.
It sold for $321,500.
Lot 148 is a wonderful 2 7/16-inch-tall bronze
head of a God, Roman Imperial, circa 2nd Century A.D., that has
an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000, and Lot 149 is a quite remarkable
bronze bust of Zeus, approximately the same period as Lot 148,
but distinguished by a crescent moon inlaid with silver with inverted
floral sprays and a rampant eagle. Although the latter piece is
only 3 inches high, it is one of the most spectacular in the collection
and has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It was
acquired from the Merrin Gallery in 1991. Lot 148 sold for
$57,500 and Lot 149 sold for $51,750.
Lot 125 is a Roman gilt-bronze mirror depicting
the Three Graces, 4 13/16 inches in diameter, circa 2nd Century,
A.D. It was bought at Sotheby's, June 23, 1989 when it was hammered
down at $13,000. It now has an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.
It sold for $17,250.
Lot 128 is a gilt-bronze bust of Castor or
Pollux, Roman Imperial, lst/2nd Century, A.D., that is 5 1/2 inches
high and has an ambitious estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It
sold for $63,000.
Lot 159 is a fine figure of a boar, 1st/2nd
Century A.D., that is 4 1/16 inches long, that was acquired from
Mathias Komor in 1974 and has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000.
It sold for $11,500.
The collection has three lovely Greek terra-cotta
figures of women: Lot 112 comes from Boeotia, circa late 4th/early
3d Century B.C., and is 7 5/8 inches high and Lot 113 is an 8-inch-high
figure from the 3 rd Century, B.C. Both carry estimates of $10,000
to $15,000. Lot 112 sold for $19,500 and Lot 113 sold for $33,350.
Lot 116 is a figure of a dancing woman, Magna Graecia, circa 3rd
Century, B.C., that is 10 5/16 inches high and has an estimate
of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for $25,875.
Lot 114 is a terra-cotta head of a goddess,
Magna Graecia, circa 2nd half of the 4th Century, B.C., that is
11 5/8 inches high. It has an ambitious estimate of $80,000 to
$120,000, probably reflecting its size, but the face is rather
static and not too refined. It sold for $222,500. More
interesting and much more colorful is Lot 115 from the same period
as Lot 114. It is a terra-cotta group of five women at a well,
all supporting incense bowls on their head. It is conservatively
estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 and is 8 1/4 inches high. It
sold for $115,500.
There are some good marbles.
Lot 150, for example, is an exquisite Hellenistic
head of a goddess, circa 3rd/2nd Century, B.C., that is 4 inches
high and has an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. It sold for $14,950.
Lot 153 is a nice torso of Aphrodite, Roman
Imperial, circa 1st Century, A.D., 13 1/4 inches high. It has
an estimate of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $101,500.
Lot 67 is a very fine Greek marble head of
a horse, circa late 4th/3rd Century B.C., 8 3/4 inches high. The
beautifully carved work has the hand of a child clasping the neck,
which adds immensely to its charm. It has an estimate of $30,000
to $50,000. It sold for $74,000.
Lot 44 is a marble figure of a goddess, Greece
or Asia Minor, Neolithic Period, circa 6000 to 5000 B.C. This
1 1/2-inch-high piece, which was acquired from the Merrin Gallery
in 1990, has a conservative estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 as she
is most interesting and rare. It sold for $28,750. Similarly
intriguing is Lot 45, a Greek shell figure of a woman, Neolithic
Period, 4th Millennium, B.C., or earlier. This 2 5/16-inch-high
figure has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It
sold for $57,500.
Lot 47 is a Cycladic marble figure of a goddess,
early Bronze Age 11, circa 2600-2500 B.C., that is in superb condition
and has a conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold
There are many fine Greek vases.
Lot 80 is a very nice Corinthian Black-figure
Alabastron, circa 1st quarter of the 6th Century, B.C., of pear-shaped
form with a winged and bearded divinity on one side and a large
goose on the other. The 7-inch-tall piece has an estimate of $7,000
to $8,000. It sold for $18,400.
Lots 83 and 84 and very good Black-figure vases,
Chalcidian, circa 530-520 B.C. The former is an oinochoe and has
an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000 and the latter is an amphora
and has an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. Lot 83 sold for $9,775
and Lot 84 sold for $9,200.
Lot 85 is an Attic Black-figure amphora with
lid, circa 540 B.C. The 18 3/8-inch-tall work has a very ambitious
estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $255,500.
Far more graceful is Lot 87, a work from the same period, that
is a cup, 8 7/8 inches in diameter. It has an estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It sold for $20,700.
Lot 90 is an impressive Attic Black-figure
oinochoe, circa 530 B.C., that is 10 13/16 inches high. The catalogue
notes "a strong affinity to the work of the Euphilatos Painter."
It has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000, reflecting the high
quality of the drawing. It sold for $34,500.
Lot 92 is an Attic black-figure hydria, circa
510 B.C., which is 17 5/8-inches high and is attributed to the
Leagros Group. It has an estimate of $125,000 to $175,000. It
sold for $107,000.
Lot 94 is an Attic Black-figure neck amphora,
circa 510-500 B.C., that is very nice and 10 13/16 inches high.
It has an estimate of only $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for
Lot 134 is a very fine Attic white-ground,
black-figure Alabastron, circa 490-480 B.C. The 7 ½-inch-high
work has been attributed by Dietrich von Bothmer to the Diosphos
Painter and has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold
Lot 138 is an Attic red-figure lekythos, circa
490 BC, that is 13 13/16 inches high and is attributed by Dietrich
von Bothmer to the Eucharides Painter. It has an estimate of $40,000
to $60,000 and depicts a cat running vertically up a string held
by a man trying to reach a treat held in his hand, a very interesting
work. It sold for $57,500.
The highlight of the Egyptian works is Lot
11, a polychrome sandstone head of King Amenhotep I, 18th Dynasty,
reign of Amenhotep I, 1514-1493 B.C. This 18-inch-high work was
acquired from the Merrin Gallery in 1982 and has an "estimate
on request." Although the king's crown is damaged, the red-painted
face is quite impressive with a rather lyrical expression. In
the catalogue of the 1987 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum,
"Antiquities from the Collection of Christos G. Bastis,"
Bernard von Bothmer described this work as "one of the outstanding
royal sculptures of the Early New Kingdom." It sold for
$1,157,500, an auction record for an Egyptian antiquity.
Lot 17, a green schist head of the goddess
Selket, 26th Dynasty, reign of Amasis, circa 570-526 BC., is more
beautiful although her nose has been damaged. The carving of this
work is very fine and her beatific expression is almost Leonardoesque.
The 8 1/2-inch-high head has a conservative estimate of $125,000
to $175,000. She is missing her scorpion-crown. It sold for
Lot 20 is a bust of a god in the same material
as Lot 17 and in magnificent condition. The 7-inch-high piece
which is 30th Dynasty, 380-342 B.C. has an estimate of $100,000
to $150,000. It sold for $277,500.
Lot 24 is a wonderful fragmentary basalt head
of a man, late Ptolemaic/early Roman period, circa 1st Century,
B.C. The 3 1/2-inch-high piece, which has a superbly sculpted
face, has a conservative estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It
sold for $200,500!
Lot 25 is a limestone votive relief, 30th Dynasty,
380-342 B.C., that is 3 by 2 inches and finely carved in high
relief on both sides, as shown above. The figure depicted is probably
the head of a Nectanebo II. The lot, which is illustrated on the
catalogue's endpapers, has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $74,000. Lot 26 is a 5 ½-by-5-inch limestone
votive relief of the same person and it has an estimate of $12,000
to $18,000. It sold for $37,375. The former was acquired
from Nicholas Koutoulakis in 1975 and the later from Dikran G.
Kelekian in 1947.
Lot 29 is a limestone votive relief, Ptolemaic
Period, 302-30 B.C., depicting the head of a ram, sacred to the
god Khnum. The 5 ¾-by-8 5/8-inch work has a conservative
estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $68,500.
Lot 30 is a limestone figure of an owl, Ptolemaic
Period, 304-30 B.C., which is 4 7/8 inches high. The lot is illustrated
on the front cover of the catalogue, which also has a jacket.
This lot is conservatively estimated at $6,000 to $9,000. It
sold for $40,250.