most of this Spring 2003 season has witnessed a paucity of superb
offerings in most of the major categories, this Antiquities auction
at Christie's is full of interesting and fine works.
It is highlighted by an impressive Syrian limestone votive relief,
a stunning Roman gilt silver rhyton, and an intriguing Caucasian
nomadic gilt bronze finial. In addition, there are numerous excellent
Egyptian works of art, fine Greek vases and Roman sculptures.
Given recent concerns about the looting of antiquities in Iraq,
Lot 71, a Syrian limestone votive relief, should draw considerable
attention. The 16-inch-high relief is dated by Christie's as Early
Dynastic Period, circa 2600-2300 B.C. It is sculpted in two registers
around a central square perforation for attachment to a wall and
the center shows a bearded man, possibly the donor of the relief,
standing before an enthroned bearded deity, the votary in profile
to the right with his arms projecting forward, perhaps once proffering
a libation, wearing a belted kilt of long pointed tufts, similar
to those on many Sumerian statues. The deity holds a palm leaf.
Although it is not finely detailed, the lot is impressive for
its size and has an estimate of $80,000 to $120,000. It
Much more recent and much more spectacular is Lot 191, a Roman
gilt silver rhyton, circa 1st Century A.D., shown at the top of
this article. The 9 3/4-inch-high drinking vessel was made from
a single sheet of silver excluding the hollow tube at the base
and the separately cast disk rim and its conical body has four
registers in high relief. The top two reliefs depict various animals
while the lowest register has herms with wild hair and long beards
and the second lowest register has three winged Erotes supporting
The beautiful rhyton has a modest estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $141,900 including the buyer's premium as do all
the results mentioned in this article.
as magnificent as the Roman gilt silver rhyton, Lot 239, a Caucasian
nomadic gilt bronze finial, is one of those small but very fascinating
antiquities that crudely conjure fantasies. The 4-inch-high finial
depicts a stylized woman holding a bowl and wearing a pendant
cross between her very small breasts. The figure has a very pointed
chin, a very thin mouth and large eyes, one of which is still
inlaid with turquoise glass. The ears are pierced for now missing
earrings. There is a fringe of striated hair at the top of the
head, the back open, according to the catalogue and the finial
is riveted to a domed sheet ornamented with an interlocking pattern
with four glass disks and rivets which attach leather to the underside.
The lot also has a small gilt bronze bell and, more importantly,
a bearded man with outstretched arms in a gilt bronze openwork
The lot has a conservative estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It
sold for $21,510.
The more conventional "items" include many impressive
section of the auction is highlighted by a fine graywacke torso
inscribed for Pharaoh Tuthmosis III, a Middle Kingdom pair statue,
and a small limestone head of Amenhotep III.
The torso, Lot 12, is dated to the New Kingdon, Dynasty XVIII,
reign of Tuthmosis III, 1479-1425 B.C. The 19 1/4-inch--high black
stone torse is very finely sculpted with what the catalogue describes
as a "silky matte finish" and the now-headless figure
once wore an unadorned false beard and a nemes-headclotyh, the
lappets of which are preserved on the shoulders. Tuthmosis III's
stepmother was Hatshepsut who served as regent until her death
in 1458 B.C. Tuthmosis squashed revolts in Egypt's western Asian
territories and, according to the catalogue, "established
Egypt as the reigning superpower of the region[and] chose to eradicate
the memory of Hatshepsut replacing her name and image with his
own." He was succeeded in 1425 B.C., by his son, Amenhotep
The imposing lot has a conservative estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $141,900.
statue that is smaller and less formidable but complete with heads
and legs is Lot 8, a pair statue of diorite that is dated to the
Middle Kingdom, Dynasty XI-XIV, 2040-1640 B.C. The 8 1/2-inch-high
stature depicts a man and a woman on a high plinth. The catalogue
notes that the fingers and toes of both figures manneristically
elongated, both with distinctive non-idealizing facial features,
including hieroglyphic eyes, prominent ears, triangular nose and
straight mouth. The figures are identified with hieroglyphic text
on the top of the plinth. This is a very handsome work, which
fortunately has not been terribly marred by what appears to have
been an attempt in the past to split the statues and base apart.
The lot has an estimate of $250,000 to $350,000. It failed
Lot 13 is
a nice small limestone head of Amenhotep III. The four-inch-high
head is dated New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, reign of Amenhotep III,
1391-1353 B.C. It has a somewhat ambitious estimate of $30,000
to $50,000. It sold for $50,190.
Lot 29 is
a very fine Egyptian limestone relief from the Saite Period, Dynasty
XXVI, 664-525 B.C. The 13 3/4-inch-high relief is related to similar
reliefs from the tomb of Mentuemhat, a mayor of Thebes and one
of his era's most powerful administrators, according to the catalogue.
It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $89,625.
collectors of antiquities, Cycladic statues are among the most
abstract objects available. Anatolian Kilia type statues are,
in fact, more abstract and do not appear as often. Lot 61 is a
4 1/8-inch-high marble female idol, Kilia type, that is dated
circa 2700-2100 B.C. The stylized figure has a broad triangular
head with small protruding ears and slender nose, and a flat body
with rounded shoulders. It has a modest estimate of $15,000 to
$20,000. It sold for $17,925. Lot 60 is just the
a similar piece as Lot 61. The 1 13/16-inch-high head has a modest
estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for $5,019.
The Greek Art section of the auction is highlighted by a very,
very beautiful marble head of a female and many excellent vases.
head of a woman, Lot 118 is a 13 1/4-inch-high marble Greek sculpture
that dates to the Classical Period, circa mid 4th Century B.C.
The catalogue maintains that although the piece is sculpted in
the round it "was likely from a large-scale sculptural group,
perhaps a pediment or a funerary monument. "The treatment
of the hair and neck along the proper left side, ever so slightly
less refined then on the right, indicates that the head was positioned
facing to her left, and that the sculptor either could not or
needed not to access that area," the catalogue entry continued,
adding that the woman's earlobes are perforated for attaching
of now-missing earrings.
The lot has a somewhat ambitious estimate of $250,000 to $350,000.
It sold for $287,500.
many fine Greek vases in this auction.
for example, is a stunning Attic black-figured belly amphora (type
A) that is attributed to the Lysippides Painter. Dated circa 530-510
B.C., the 24 1/4-inch-high amphora has an estimate of $150,000
to $200,000. It sold for $298,700.
Lot 102 comes from the Russell B. Aitkin Collections as does Lot
104, an Attic black-figured trefoil oinochoe. The very handsome
oinochoe is 8 5/8 inches high and is dated circa 530-520 B.C.
It once was in the collection of William Randolph Hearst of San
Simeon and has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold
Attic black-figured work is Lot 105, a column-krater that is attributed
to the Leagros Group. The 17 5/8-inch-high vessel is dated 510-500
B.C., and has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000 and was once in
the collection of Dr. Elie Borowski. It sold for $71,700.
very handsome Attic black-figured amphora is Lot 106. It is attributed
to the Three Line Group, circa 520 B.C. The 16 1/2-inch-high amphora
has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000.
It sold for $38,240.
is a handsome white ground lekythos attributed to the Marathon
Painter, circa 520-510 B.C. The 8 1/8-inch-high Greek Attic
work has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for
Art section of this auction is highlighted by a very fine marble
torso of the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. Lot 175, this sculpture
dates circa 1st Century A.D., and is modeled after the original
Greek sculpture of circa 440 B.C. It was once in the collection
of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore and was consigned by Herbert
C. Lust III. Polykleitos was the very famous Greek sculptor and
the Doryphoros, or spearbearer, was one of his most famous works.
The now-lost original was in bronze. This, which is 27 1/2 inches
high, lot has an estimate of $60,000 to $90,000. It sold for
consists of two nicely modelled and detailed Roman bronze figures
circa 1st-2nd Century A.D. The larger of the two depicts Minerva
and is 3 5/8 inches high. The other figure depicts a votary. The
lot has a conservative estimate of $2,000 to $3,000. It sold
illustration of the catalogue is Lot 139, a Roman bronze head
of a wolf, circa 1st Century A. D. The sculpture was once in the
collection of Mathias Komor of New York. It has an estimate of
$100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $321,100, the highest price
in the auction in which slightly more than 80 percent of the offered
lots sold. The catalogue observes that it is "superbly
cast with meticulous attention to details"
is a spectacular Roman marble sacrophagus circa Late 2nd-Early
3rd Century A.D. The 48-inch-long sacrophagus is in great condition
and has a modest estimate of $140,000 to $180,000. It failed
is an excellent Roman marble torso of Venus, circa 2nd Century
A.D. The 23 1/2-inch high statue has an estimate of $150,000 to
$250,000. It sold for $209,100.
Lot 66 is
a magnificent and very abstract sculpture that Isamu Noguchi would
have certainly admired. According to the catalogue, it is a Bactrian
stone ritual object that dates circa late 3rd-Early 2nd Millennium
B.C. The 12 3/4-inch-high sculpture has a very conservative estimate
of $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $2,390.
Lot 76 is
a worn but impressive Elamite copper macehead. Dated Early 2nd
Millennium B.C., it is 6 3/8 inches long. It has a modest estimate
of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $5,377.
Lot 21 is
a stunning Egyptian mummy portrait of a woman from the Roman Imperial
Period, circa 2nd Century A.D. The 21-inch-long work is in fine
condition except for missing some paint about the figure's left
hand. It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000. It failed to