afternoon antiquities auction of the Morven Collection of Ancient
Art June 9, 2004, offers some of the finest Roman bronzes to come
to auction in many years and is one of the world's best such
Christie's has not identified the consignor, stating only that
"This important assemblage of ancient art, a landmark of
taste and connoisseurship, was formed by an impassioned collector
who began acquiring in 1977," adding that "Over a twenty-year
period he formed, without question, one of the finest private
collections of its kind."
The auction includes more than 200 bronzes and almost 100 Greek
vases. "Many," G. Max Bernheimer, Christie's International
Specialist Head, Antiquities, wrote in the catalogue's foreword,
"have renowned provenance, with pieces coming from the Bolla,
Bomford, Cook, de Behague, de Sanctis Mangelli, and Moretti
large number of these pieces will be well known to specialists,
as many have previously been published by scholars. Some of the
vases were part of "The Art of South Italy, Vases from Magna
Graecia" exhibition organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine
Arts in Richmond, Virginia in 1982, which traveled to several
other venues. A selection of the bronzes was exhibited in 1996
in "From Olympus to the Underworld, Ancient Bronzes from
the John W. Kluge Collection" at the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston. Also in 1996 he loaned to "The Fire of Hephaistos:
Large Classical Bronzes from North American Collections"
which opened at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University
and traveled to Toledo and Tampa through 1997. An extensive scholarly
catalogue of the classical bronzes was prepared by Dr. Cornelius
C. Vermeule, former curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,
together with Dr. Jerome Eisenberg, who served as the primary
advisor, and a catalogue of the Egyptian and Near Eastern Bronzes
was prepared by Dr. Eisenberg together with Dr. Robert S. Bianchi.
The authors of these unpublished works have graciously shared
their research for the present catalogue.This collection has been
prominently displayed in the collector's several homes. Although
nearly all of the bronzes in the collection are small in scale,
there is one extraordinary figure of a young god or athlete, inspired
by the work of Polykleitos, which stands an impressive 44 inches
high. This important figure was placed in the entrance foyer of
his New York apartment"
Given the fact that many of the pieces have been written up in
the above-mentioned Vermeule-Eisenberg catalogue of the Kluge
collection and since Morven is the name of an historic property
in Virginia that Mr. Kluge donated recently to the University
of Virginia, it is more than likely that the Morven Collection
of antiquities comes from Mr. Kluge.
The figure of a young god or athlete is Lot 470, a Roman bronze
that the catalogue dates circa 50 B.C.-50 A.D. Robin Symes of
London and the Royal-Athena Galleries of New York are listed as
the work's provenance.
is spectacular and in excellent condition. It has a modest estimate
of $1,300,000 to $1,800,000. It sold for $1,351,500 including
the buyer's premium as do all the results mentioned in this article.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"The Morven youth is a Roman creation based on Greek ideals
established during the 5th and 4th Centuries B.C., and in particular
recalls the work of Polykeitos. The age of the figure represented,
like the 4th Century B.C. youth netted from the sea in the Bay
of Marathon and now in the National Museum, Athens, due to the
absence of pubic hair in combination with 'a well-defined bone
structure, the absence of baby fat, and the muscular development,
all seem characteristic of an adolescent boy.' For other bronze
figures in a similar style see the so-called 'idolino,' found
in Pesaro and now in the Museo Archaeologico Etrusco in Florence,
and the bronze youth in the Toledo Museum of Art.The identity
of the Morven youth can not be established in the absence of the
attribute once held in the right hand. If divine, the possibilities
include Hercules, who might have held his club, or Bacchus, who
would have held his kantharos.If an athlete, he could have held
a palm branch or a wreath."
is a very beautiful depiction of Venus that is a bronze fulcrum
terminal, either late Hellenistic or Roman. Dated circa 1st Century
B.C., it is 7 ¾ inches high and has a modest estimate of
$25,000 to $35,000. It sold for $38,240. The
maintains it is "said to be from Asti in Piedmont, Italy"
and was formerly in the de Santis Mangelli Collection in Rome
and was acquired from the Royal-Athena Galleries in New York in
1988. "With Venus in high relief but for her torso which
is rendered in the round, the goddess depicted seated, presumably
on a rock, her toes projecting over the edge of the terminal,"
the catalogue's description noted, adding that the folds of her
dress are "beautifully delineated" and that her torso
is "subtly twisting" and that her right hand once held
an attribute. The figure of the goddess is missing much of her
left arm, but otherwise is complete and very very graceful and
version of Venus is Lot 484, "Venus Genetrix," a Roman
bronze that is 6 5/8 inches high and is dated circa 1st Century
A.D. Julius Caesar's family claimed direct descent from Venus
Genetrix and Aeneas and a temple to her was built in Caesar's
forum, the catalogue entry noted. This finely modeled figure is
missing her right arm and left hand, but is still formidable.
With her left leg crossed over her thigh, she has an extremely
sensuous pose that accents her curves and her facial expression
is challenging. This impressive work was sold by the Thetis Foundation
at Sotheby's in London May 23, 1991 and was with the Royal-Athena
Galleries in New York in 1992. It has a conservative estimate
of $10,000 to $15,000. It sold for $41,825.
Venus be without Cupid. In Lot 486, Cupid can be seen hold a torch
to illuminate her mirror. This sculpture group stands on a semicircular
plinth that has four steps in front. Venus is depicted here as
rather stately and huge, especially in comparison with the animated
and winged, but diminutive, Cupid, who stands on a pedestal atop
the plinth. This lot has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It
sold for $41,825.
A more graceful
Cupid is Lot 480, a Roman bronze that is 5 1/8 inches high and
dated circa 1st Century A.D. The figure is missing part of one
of its wings. It has an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. It
sold for $13,145.
A very graceful
Venus is Lot 505, a 6 5/8-inch-high bronze, Roman, circa 1st-2nd
Century A.D. Although she is missing part of her left arm and
her right foot, she is exceedingly graceful as the ends of her
drapery flutter to her side. She is nude except for a crescentic
diadem in her hair . The catalogue notes that the "flowing
drapery once [formed] an arching canopy over her head," similar
to an example from Rome that is in the British Museum. This lot
has a modest estimate of $12,000 to $18,000. It sold for
A dancing Lar is one of the more delightful statuettes for many
collectors of Roman bronzes and Lot 485 is a particularly fine
example even though it is missing the traditional attributes of
a situla in his right hand and a cornucopia in his left. This
figure is very finely modeled and has an excellent patina and
an elegant pose. It has a modest estimate of $10,000 to $15,000.
It sold for $38,240.
One of the
more spectacular Roman bronzes is Lot 532, an attachment in the
form of Aion. Dated circa mid-2nd Century A.D., it measures 9
1/2 inches long. The catalogue notes it was "said to have
been found in the ruins of the Imperial Palace in Thessaloniki,
Greece, in1927. It has an estate of $30,000 to $50,000. It
sold for $28,680.
is a quite lovely Roman bronze of Minerva holding high part of
her skirt. The piece is 8 1/2 inches high and is dated circa 1st
Century A.D. It has an estimate of $15,000 to $20,000. It
is a charming small Late Hellenistic or Roman bronze of a child
holding a rooster in his left arm. The statue was once in the
collection of Mrs. Albert D. Lasker of New York. It has a modest
estimate of $6,000 to $8,000. It sold for $8,365.
is a very nice Etruscan bronze "Dioskouros." Dated circa
3rd-2nd Century B.C., it is 12 1/8 inches high. It has an estimate
of $50,000 to $70,000. It sold for $71,700.
is a very fine Roman bronze of Asklepius, Antonine Period, circa
mid-2nd Century A.D. The 7 14-inch-high figure has a lovely patina
and excellent detail. It has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000.
It sold for $95,600.
is an impressive Roman bronze of "Silvanus." Dated circa
150-200 A.D., it is 11 5/8 inches high. It was once in the collection
of William Herbert Hunt. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.
It sold for $95,600.
is a very stately Roman bronze of a civic god or genius. Dated
circa 2nd Century A.D., it is 9 1/2 inches high. It has an estimate
of $80,000 to $120,000. It sold for $83,650.