By Carter B.
Bringing this very strong
auction season to
an end, this Antiquities auction boasts several major museum-quality
works, some superb ancient glass and numerous nice objects from
many different cultures.
Almost 90 percent of
the offered lots sold,
a fine percentage, and many sold above their high estimates. The
sale total was $9,332,145 and ended the Spring 2000 auction season
on a high note.
The catalogue’s cover
Lot 60, a bronze head of a young athlete, Roman Imperial, circa
late 1st Century B.C./1st Century A.D., shown above, the auction’s
The catalogue includes 5
full-page color illustrations
of the head from various angles as well as a half-page color photograph
of it mounted on a bronze base that has shoulders and a neck that
was created for it in Renaissance Italy. The head is being sold
together with the base. The height of the head is 11 ¾
inches. The head is exquisitely carved with highly stylized curly
hair and a noble but slightly sad expression and the face has
quite full lips. "The accompanying bronze shoulders, a thick-walled
cast, are robustly chased and draped in a similar fashion to those
executed in northern Italy by the mid 16th Century, and like the
complete figure to which the head was joining in antiquity, the
join between the head and neck is skillfully disguised (although
the correct angle was not understood). The workmanship of the
crisp and deliberate folds of drapery fastened at the shoulder
with a finely tooled morse bears a close affinity to that of the
Lombardo family, an important dynasty of Venetian sculptors,"
the catalogue noted. The head and the supporting shoulders and
neck are shown combined, below.
"The complete bronze figure for
this head was separately cast showed the young athlete after a
competition looking down and concentrating on cleaning his strigil
(the curved instrument used by Greek athletes in combination with
olive oil, to scrape dust from their bodies). There are several
other copies after the Greek original, of which the bronze statue
from Ephesos - now in Vienna - is perhaps the best known. Cornelius
C Vermeule…notes that certain ‘modern critics have seen
this athlete as a work oa follower of Polykleitos, perhaps his
presumed grandson Daidalos, while others have identified the figure
as an early work of Lysipppos. If the latter supposition is true,
this statue’s original in bronze may be the true Aproxyomenos
of Lysyippos, for the type was obviously far more popular than
that of the celebrated marble from Trastevere in the Vatican.’
Lysippos, active between 360 and 315 B.C., was, in addition to
being an extraordinarily prolific sculptor in bronze, the court
portraitist to Alexander the Great, and his fame equaled that
of his near contemporary Praxiteles," the catalogue stated.
The work was formerly in the
Senator Bernardo Nani in a museum at San Trovaso that housed the
largest collection of antiquities in Venice in the second half
of the 18th Century.
The lot has an "estimate on
It sold to an anonymous buyer for $4,550,750, including the
buyer's premium, a world auction record for an antiquity!
Another major work, which
happens to be from
the same period and culture is Lot 89, a silver skyphos, shown
above, 6 15/16 inches wide. The two-handled bowl has high relief,
repoussé carving, depicting on one side, two lions chasing
two wild donkeys, a lion cub with one forepaw resting on a rock
and two monkey sin a tree, all possibly representing Africa; and,
on the other side, probably representing Europe, a bear and its
club attacking a bull with another bull in the background and
a smaller bear cub emerged from its den. The finely carved and
very impressive piece has an estimate of $500,000 to $700,000
and has four color illustrations in the catalogue. It sold
for $643,750 to an American private collector.
The third great piece in this
auction is Lot
123, a gray chlorite, marble and lapis lazuli figure of a priestess
or goddess, Bactria or Iran, circa late 3rd Millennium B.C., shown
above. The 3 ¼-inch high figure is striking not only because
of its very small head but also its pose in a huge, voluminous
fleece mantle that is remarkably stylish with its large leaf patterning
and billowing form. The lower right front of the seated figure’s
carved garment is a bit damaged, which is not visible in the above
photograph but quite visible when seen from the front or the other
side, but still not enough to seriously detract from the weighty
significance of this small object. This lot has an estimate of
$200,000 to $300,000, which is not unreasonable as this fat lady
could probably sing! It failed to sell.
Anyone who has a taste for the
or goddess in the above lot will certainly want to consider Lot
5, a schist palette, Predynastic period, Nagada II, Egypt, circa
3600-3200 B.C., a stylized guinea fowl with slender arched neck
and circular eyes once inlaid. The 5 ¾ -inch-high work
was formerly in the Heeramaneck Collection and was on loan to
the Brooklyn Museum of Art from 1978 to 1986. The piece still
has part of a leg at its bottom. Numerous similar palettes appear
on the market but rarely one with a shape so well-defined. The
lot is conservatively estimated at $5,000 to $8,000. It sold
There are several nice ushabtis
that were formerly
in the collection of Kalebdjian Frères in Paris, including
Lot 6, a white faience ushabti, 19th Dynasty, 1292-1190 B.C.,
6 3/16 inches high and Lot 9, a blue-green faience ushabti, 26th/30th
Dynasty, 664-342 B.C., 7 ¾ inches high. The former, which
has its face and hands painted red and his wig and some other
details painted violet, has a very conservative estimate of $2,000
to $3,000, and the latter has an similar estimate. Lot 6 sold
for $7,800 and Lot 9 sold for $5,100.
From a private Belgian
collection comes Lot
16, shown above, a bronze figure of the Moon God Thoth, 26th Dynasty,
664-525 B.C., that is on a base fronted by two small baboons.
The striding god wears a finely pleated kilt and has a crown coposed
of horns, moon-disk and an Ibis head surmounted by the rust-atef
crown. The catalogue suggests that the base may not belong to
the figure. The height of the figure is 6 7/16 inches and the
overall height of it and the base is 8 inches. The lot has a
estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $23,750.
From the same collection also
comes Lot 23,
a bronze figure of an ibis, Late Period, 716-30 B.C., that is
9 1/8 inches long that has a separately cast head and body and
has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $30,650.
In contrast, Lot 24 is another
ibis from the
same period that is 10 ½ inches long and has a wooden body
and comes from Mathias Komor in New York and the estate of Mrs.
John Hay Whitney. It has an estimate of only $8,000 to $12,000
and most likely it will fetch considerably more considering how
the market has been quite excited about the "Whitney"
provenance over the past season or so. It sold for $19,150.
Some works of art may not be
perfect but have
a certain quality that is especially intriguing. Lot 46 is a Greek
marble hero relief of Diomedes, 2nd Century B.C., 13 ¼
inches high, that is such a piece. At first glance it seems a
bit unfinished although parts of it are quite wonderfully sculpted.
Diomedes is astride a horse which is standing in front of a tree
from which hangs a giant snake/serpent and Diomedes is offering
the "great fork-tongued serpent" a drink from a "phiale
mesmophalos." Diomedes sits tall upon his horse and what
is startling is the stance and expression, or rather lack of expression
of the horse as the snake’s head seems to rest against its
front haunch deciding whether to drink. The snake’s body
is almost as big as the major branches of the tree that has quite
delicate leaves on its upper branches. The serpent appears to
be at least 12 feet in length. The work is both ominous and peaceful,
quixotic and unnerving. The lot has an estimate of $60,000 to
$90,000. It sold for $159,750.
Lot 47 is also very
interesting. It is a 22
5/8-by-20-inch fragment of a Hellenistic marble funerary relief,
circa late 3rd/early 2nd Century B.C., and it shows a man seated
on a chair with leogriff support, and wearing a himation falling
from his left shoulder, his right hand resting on his knee, a
woman standing at his right and resting the figures of her left
hand on his arm, a small herm of a youth behind. The man’s
and the woman’s heard are missing and the fragment is centered
on the women’s hand resting with spread fingers on the arm
of the man and her fingers are just beneath the youth’s small
head. The composition, or what remains of it, is particularly
affectionate and the fragment is itself very asymmetrical but
poetic. The youth stays out directly to the viewer in this very
communicative work that has an estimate of $35,000 to $45,000.
It sold for $78,375.
For those who are only happy
that are torsos of naked women, there are two choices, Lots 48
and 49. The former is a Roman marble torso of Aphrodite, circa
2nd Century A.D., 14 1/8 inches high, and the latter is a similar
figure, Roman Imperial, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D., that is 16
5/8 inches high and they have estimates, respectively, $6,000
to $9,000 and $20,000 to $30,000. Lot 48 sold for $20,300 and
Lot 49 sold for $66,875.
For many collectors, however,
great folds of "diaphanous chiton and himation" for
the best statues of antiquity often seem to reveal as much through
the stone drapery of clothing as the nudes but have the added
bravura of making the stone clothes seem pliant, soft, touchable.
Lot 50, then, is for these collectors, a marble figure of a goddess,
now headless, late Hellenistic or early Roman Imperial, circa
1st Century B.C., 30 ¼ inches high. The lot has an estimate
of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $81,250.
Lot 87 is another statue, of a
and it has even more folds than Lot 50. It is a "monumental"
portrait statue, Roman Imperial, 2nd Century, A.D., 73 inches
high, and has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. The figure
holds her right arm up to her face, which is mostly missing. It
sold for $214,750.
For those who insist on women
with heads, Lot
124 may bring happiness. It is a limestone bust of a woman, Palmyra,
circa 1st half of the 3rd Century A.D., 27 3/8 inches high. The
highly detailed sculpture shows a woman with very elaborate jewelry
and a headdress. It has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It
sold for $104,250.
While the draped ladies are
very popular, Lot
88 is certain to turn some heads as it is a very impressive marble
taorso of an Emperor or General, circa mid 2nd Century A.D., that
is being deaccessioned by the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, which
presumably must have several of these to decide to part with it!
The 47-inch-high torso is distinguished by a very nicely rendered
breastplate with a large tied sash and it has one nicely sculpted
exposed knee. It has a conservative estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.
It sold for $98,500.
Lots 53, 55, 57 and 58 are very
vases with modest estimates. Lot 53 is a Corinthian pottery trefoil
oinochoe, circa 625-600 B.C., with black, red and white depictions
of a seated sphinx, a striding lion, a swan flanked by sirens,
a striking panther and a grazing deer. It has a conservative estimate
of $6,000 to $9,000. It sold for $13,200. Lot 55 is
Attic Black-Figure Trefoil Oinochoe, circa 520-510 B.C., that
shows Dionysos holding large grapevine branches standing between
dancing maenads and satyrs. It has an estimate of $15,000 to $25,000.
It sold for $27,200. Lot 57 is an Attic
cup from the same period as Lot 55 and it shows two warriors in
combat. The 7 7/16-inch diameter object has an estimate of $5,000
to $8,000. It sold for $16,800. Lot 58 is a
Attic Black-Figure Eye Cup, 11 11/16 inches in diameter that shows
Herakles advancing towards a fallen adversary with Athena advancing
from the other direction. It has an estimate of $90,000 to $100,000.
It sold for $80,000. The latter two lots are
cups" because their design incorporates abstract faces with
Lot 75 is a very fine Etruscan
of a warrior, circa 4th Century B.C., that is 9 9/16 inches high
and is notable not only for its fine, soft modeling but also for
the quite extravagant high-crested helmet. It has an estimate
of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $46,750.
For many novice collectors, the
is Assyrian palace reliefs from about seven centuries B.C., like
the marvelous room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. These are
on a par with the Elgin Marbles at least in terms of impressiveness
and in most instances are far better preserved. Lot 120, then,
should stir some interest for it is a Assyrian gypsum relief fragment,
Nineveh, probably from the South-west Palace of Sennacherib, reign
of Sennacherib, 704-681 BC. The 14 by 18-inch fragment has one
full, and marvelously bearded, face and a portion of another.
It has a conservative estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold
The afternoon section, which
starts at 2 PM,
begins with a very good selection of Phoenician, Roman, Byzantine
and Islamic Glass.
One of the glass highlights is
Lot 153, a gold-band
glass Alabstron, circa 1st half of the 1st Century, A.D., with
opaque swirling bands and lines in brilliant green, cobalt blue,
white, yellow, red and black and areas of transluscent clear glass
containing shattered gold foil. The 5 1/16-inch high object, which
has a large chip on one side and a smaller restored chip on the
other and stress cracks, has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.
It was withdrawn.
Lot 161 is a cobalt-blue
marbled glass inkwell,
circa 1st Century A.D., 2 3/8 inches high, that has an estimate
of $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for $5,700.
Lot 174 is a pale blue-green
circa 3rd/4th Century A.D., 5 ½ inches high, that has an
estimate of $1,500 to $2,500. It sold for $4,500.
Lot 191 is a blue-green glass
jar, circa 4th/5th
Century, A.D., 4 7/8 inches high, that has an estimate of $5,000
to $8,000 and has numerous deep aquamarine ornamental handles
around the foot, shoulder and rim and zigzag thread on the body.
It sold for $9,000.