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Antiquities

Sotheby's

10:15AM, June 9, 2004

Sale 8003

Bronze figure of a warrior

Lot 78, Figure of a Warrior, bronze, 7 ¼ inches high, Middle Bronze age, circa Early 2nd Millennium B.C.

By Carter B. Horsley

This has been a strange auction season. A nice Rose Period Picasso became the most expensive painting ever auctioned when it sold at Sotheby's for more than $104 million. Sotheby's reinstituted a New York auction of Pre-Columbian Art. Christie's decided not to hold a Latin American Art auction in New York. Phillips de Pury and Luxembourg closed its American Art department and Daniella Luxembourg decided to leave the auction house, which is now known as Phillips de Pury.

And there are only 100 lots in Sotheby's Antiquities auction June 9, 2004, one of its smallest offerings in many years.

As usual there have been many surprises and some disappointments. Despite the resounding Picasso record, the euphoria around it did not raise the price bar across the board. There is clearly money out there for "big ticket" items but the market appears to be quite selective, which means that for connoisseurs there are opportunities as the "big ticket" items are not always the best works. Unfortunately, there is an unpredictability in the market with few auctions selling very well, say, 85 percent or more of the offered lots. Some have not even sold two-thirds and at such levels consignors have every right to be concerned they may be left holding the proverbial bag. Interestingly, several works in the Christie's evening sale of Contemporary Art May 11, 2004 were retreads, that is, they had been offered and sold at major auctions in New York within the past two years, which is pretty recent for re-offering.

Not only does Sotheby's have a small auction, its selection is by and large not choice, albeit with a few exceptions.

The star of the auction is Lot 78, a great bronze figure of a warrior from the Middle Bronze Age, circa Early 2nd Millennium B.C. The 7 ¼-inch-high figure comes from the Erlenmeyer Foundation of Basel and was sold at Sotheby's in London June 12, 1997. With his titled head, wild curly hair and outstretched arms, this figure is immensely appealing. It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000. It sold for $220,800 including the buyer's premium as do all the results mentioned in this article.

Roman mosaic panel

Lot 51, Roman mosaic panel, 26 ½ by 82 1/8 inches, circa 2nd Century A.D.

Another highly desirable work is Lot 51, a large Roman mosaic panel of a pygmy hunt. The panel measures 26 ½ by 82 1/8 inches and is dated circa 2nd Century A.D. It has a modest estimate of $70,000 to $90,000. It sold for $299,200.

The panel depicts, among other things, three pymies attacking a hippopotamus, a crane poking theeye of a pygmy, a crocodile swallowing a pack mule, a pygmy carrying fruit, a pygmy plucking fruit from a tree and exotic vegetation. What more could you possibly want!

The catalogue notes that "According to Aristotle pygmies were a tribe of semi-mythical dwarfs living in the swamps of Upper Egypt," adding that "Their dimunitive figures and comical adventures were extremely popular in the repertoire of Roman house decoration." The catalogue also suggest "for a related example see the mosaic of the Great Nile Pygmy Hunt in Sousse, Tunisia.

For more conventional beauty, Lot 30, a marble figure of a goddess (called "Isis") is particularly graceful. Dated in the catalogue as Roman Imperial, circa Late 1st/Early 2nd Century A.D., it is 24 inches high and has a modest estimate of $30,000 to $40,000. It sold for $209,600.

The catalogue provides the following description:

"It is not known where and when Thomas Hope, the celebrated Regency furniture designer and probably the most famous antiquarian and collector of antiquities of the late 18th/early 19th Century, acquired the present statue, but a date of acquisition prior to 1809 is certain, since hope himself published a slightly deviant line drawing of the figure in his 1809 Costume of the Ancients with the caption 'Nymph in the old style of attire: from a small statue in my possession.'"

The statue, now headless, depicts a standing woman, it continued, "with her right leg forward wearing high-soled sandals and a long pleated chiton fastened on the shoulder with a long himation wrapped around her upper back and right forearm, draped across the breasts and left shoulder, and cascading in zigzag folds along her left side, her hair failing in long corkscrew curls over the shoulders."

Roman figure of a goddess

Lot 25, Figure of a Goddess, marble, Roman, 21 ½ inches high, circa 2nd/3rd Century A.D.

A somewhat smaller and less refined statue of a goddess is Lot 25. The Roman marble figure is dated in the catalogue circa 2nd/3rd Century A.D. It is 21 ½ inches high and has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. It sold for $19,200.

Figure of the Knidian Aprhodite, Roman

Lot 24, Figure of the Knidian Aphrodite, marble, Roman, 12 3/16 inches high, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D.

Lot 24 is a still smaller Roman marble figure of the Knidian Aphrodite, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D. The 12 3/16-inch-high figure has her head and was once in the collection of Nina Borowski of Paris and the Andre Emmerich Gallery in New York. It has a modest estimate of $6,000 to $9,000. It sold for $7,200. It is a small copy of the famous statue by Praxiteles.

Lot 21 is a very nice Cyladic figure of a goddess that is dated in the catalogue Early Bronze Age II, circa 2700-2500 B.C. The figure's right leg is a bit in front of the left, which is a bit unusual for such figures. It has a modest estimate of $5,000 to $8,000. It sold for $27,000.

Lot 54 is a large Egyptian limestone relief panel, Sakkara, 5th Dynasty, reign of Neferirkare, circa 2500-2480 B.C. It measures 26 by 75 ¼ inches and has an ambitious estimate of $200,000 to $300,000. It sold for $624,000. Its provenance has been traced back to Count Alexandre Louis Henry de Vaucelles who brought it back to France from Egypt in 1829. "On his trip to Egypt in 1826," the catalogue entry noted, "in the wake of Napoleon's campaign and in the full swing of the Egyptomania that ensued, the young traveler and scholar Louis de Vaucelles (1798-1851) was among the first European explorers to go beyond the second cataract of the Nile into the land of Nubia. He pioneered the field of Nubian studies with his book Chronologie des Monuments de la Nubie, which he published in Paris in 1829." The entry also notes that Pierre du Bourquet has maintained that the relief "is unusual in two respects: normally the deceased 'is represented only once at the end of the list and, if he has a counterpart, it is most cases his wife. Here he is shown with his name, but with different titles at each end. The second feature worth noting is how the scribe placed a list of the deceased titles under each register of offerings; each title in included except at the end of the lower register and all of them are preceded by the preposition ['to'}, which probably emphasizes, referring to the magical power of the formula, that these offerings are meant for the deceased and for him only.'"

Goddess Maat, Egyptian

Lot 62, blue figure of the Goddess Maat, Egyptian, 3 3/8 inches high, 20th/21st Dynasty, 1075-944 B.C.

On a smaller scale, Lot 62 is quite lovely. It is an Egyptian blue figure of the Goddess Maat, 20th/21st Dynasty, 1075-944 B.C. The 3 3/8-inch-high figure is missing her headdress and has some damange to her right shoulder, right elbow and right knee, but is finely modeled. It has an estimate of $20,000 to $30,000. It sold for $54,000.

Egyptian sistrum

Lot 63, sistrum, Egyptian, 8 7/8 inches high, 26th/30th Dynasty, 664-342 B.C.

Lot 63 is an Egyptian fragmentary sistrum, 26th/30th Dynasty, 664-342 B.C. The 8 7/8-inch high sistrum is, according to the catalogue, "carved in a fine green stone resembling magnesite marble or periodottie, in the form of a head of the cow goddess Hathor supporting a rattle in the form of a naos on her head. The sistrum was a musical rattle shaken to appease or entertain the goddess Hathor. It was a woman's instrument and was used by groups of choristers attached to important temples." It is missing one of two branches between which wires with metal disks would have been strung. It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000. It sold for $48,000.

Wood coffin, Egyptian

Lot 71, polychrome wood coffin lid, Egyptian, 21st/24th Dynasty, 1075-716 B.C.

Lot 71 is a polychrome wood coffin lid, Egyptian, 21st/24th Dynasty, 1075-716 B.C. It was once in the collection of James Henry Breasted (1865-1935), the founder of the Oriental Institute of Chicago. The finely modeled lid is 44 ½ inches high and has a very beautiful face. It has a conservative estimate of $7,000 to $10,000. It sold for $21,600.

Bronze bowl, probably Urartu

Lot 88, bowl, bronze, 6 7/8 inches in diameter, probably Urartu, 8th/7th Century B.C

Lot 88 is a fine bronze bowl that the catalogue says is probably Urartu, 8th/7th Century B.C. The interior of the bowl is repoussé in shallow relief with the figure of a winged bull. It comes from the Alsdorf Collection and has a diameter of 6 7/8 inches. It has a modest estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. It sold for $10,200.

See The City Review on the Spring 2004 Antiquities morning auction at Christie's

See The City Review on the Spring 2004 Antiquities afternoon auction of the Morven Collection of Ancient Art at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Antiquities and Antique Jewelry auctions Dec. 12-3, 2002 at Christie's

See The City Review article on the June 12, 2002 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Antiquities auction at Sotheby's Dec. 8, 2000

See The City Review article on the Dec. 6, 2000 auction of Ancient Jewelry and Seals at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Ancient Greek Vases auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Antique Jewelry evening auction at Christie’s Dec. 8, 1999

See The City Review article on the Dec. 9, 1999 antiquities evening auction at Sotheby's of the Christos G. Bastis Collection

See The City Review article on the Dec. 10, 1999 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the June 5, 1999 Antiquities Auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1998 Antiquities auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 Antiquities auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 1997 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

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