By Carter B.
Sotheby's June 5, 1999
Antiquities sale is highlighted by several superb works and one
quite exceptional piece, a small black chlorite figure of a mythical
hero fom Bactria or Eastern Persia, circa 2200-2000 B.C., shown
above. This 4 1/2 inch high figure at first conjures the great
small Sumerian sculptures, but those elegant, formal, sedate works
are quite calm compared with this stocky, rather mysterious figure.
catalogue quotes a discussion
about a related work in the Louvre that notes that "his beast-like
expression and his body covered in scales - doubltless to convey
hairiness - suggest an analogy with the monster giant Humbaba,
as he appears, with his speckled body, on an 18th Century Syrian
cylinder seal." The catalogue also notes that one expert
has suggested "that the objects suspended from the belt are
compartmented stamp seals which may have been worn as a symbol
of membership in a particular clan or tribe," and another
expert as suggesting that a "cavity beneath the left armpit
must have been to allow the fitting of a small container, into
which, it seems, could be placed an offering, the figure being
the mystical presenter of the offering."
piece, Lot 74, was formerly
in the Breitbart and Ben Heller collections, among others, and
was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1985 to this
year. It is ambitiously estimated at $250,000 to $350,000. It
was hammered down for $725,000 (not including the buyer's premium
as do all the sales prices in this article, except where noted),
an extremely impressive price considering that the piece was not
in pristine condition! This price was a solid indication that
the market for very rare and unusual antiquities is very strong
was a very robust sale
with the morning session selling about 85 percent of the lots,
a very respectable ratio. Prices continued to run high for Egyptian
and Greek works although Roman busts and Greek "pots"
were rather weak. This sale would seem to represent a significant
ratcheting up of values for most quality pieces although most
veteran connoisseurs would probably maintain that values are still
very low across the board.
less intimidating work
than Lot 74, but still a very impressive piece, is Lot 78, shown
above, an Elamite chlorite jar, 1st half of the 3rd Millenium
B.C., of slightly tapering concave cylindricalform with shallow
relief carving in three registers with architectural and mythological
motifs. This 5 7/8 inch high jar, which is missing its lid, is
estimated aggressively at $150,000 to $200,000. It sold for
major piece of about
the same period is Lot 79, a marble figure of a moufflon, probably
from the Indus Valley, 10 inches long. It is very similar to a
less damaged work in the Metropolitan Museum of Art that is one
of the masterpieces of Near Eastern Art. This lot is estimated
at $100,000 to $150,000. It passed at $80,000, probably
the fact that the damage was in the head section, the most important.
fairly unusual in recent
years for an Antiquities auction to have so many major Near Eastern
works, but this sale has many Roman and Egyptian works as well.
One of the most charming is Lot 156, shown below, a silver-gilt
bronze figure of Dionysos, circa 1st Century, A. D. The delightful,
2 inch long work is quite lively in its posture and has an appropriate
estimate of $5,000 to $8,000. It sold for $4,750.
very attractive small Roman statue is a silvered-bronze work of
Aphrodite Anadyomene, 1st/2nd Century A.D., Lot 157, that was
inspired by a 4th Century Greek prototype of the goddess standing
on a base wearing a diadem raising her hands to rinse the seam
foam from her hair with Priapus standing at her left holding fruits
and a diving dolphin at her right. The 2-inch high work is
estimated at $3,000 to $5,000. It sold for $8,000.
very appealing is Lot 299, a Roman bronze figure of Nike with
a victory wreath in her hand, circa 1st/2nd Century A.D., which
is estimated conservatively at $4,000 to $6,000. It failed
imposing and fine bronze statue of Herakles, Roman Imperial, circa
1st Century A.D., is Lot 154. The sculpture has a particularly
fine rendering, separately cast, of the lion's skin traditionally
draped over the left arm and and shoulder of Herakles. The 11
1/2-inch high statue is very finely crafted although its right
left is damaged and it is missing its big toe on the right foot.
It is estimated at $90,000 to $120,000, reflecting its impressive
size and fine quality. It was passed at $75,000.
lovely 23 1/8 inch high marble figure of a muse, Roman Imperial,
circa 1st Century, A.D., Lot 162, sold within its estimate for
a hammer price of $24,000. The headless statue had very fine drapery
and a fine color. Another handsome, headless, draped marble figure,
identified in this instance as the Goddess Hygieia because she
is holding a serpent, from the same period, Lot 164, about twice
the size of Lot 162, also sold within its estimate for $60,000.
attractive are a pair of bronze protomes from the same period
of the forequarters of Molossian hounds. The finely detailed
Lot 181, probably fittings from a galley or chariot, are more
than 9 inches long and were consigned by the estate of Mrs. John
Hay Whitney, which may account for the aggressive estimate of
$80,000 to $120,000. The lot sold for $190,000. A
of quite stylized and handsome bronze lion-head handles from about
a century later than the hounds is Lot 185, which are also aggressively
estimated at $50,000 to $80,000. They come from the Allan Caplan
Trust, and were passed at $32,500.
fine marble portrait head of a man, Roman Imperial, late Hadrianic
or early Antonine, circa AD 130-145, Lot 200, is a superb sculpture
in excellent condition. The cover illustration of the catalogue,
it is conservatively estimated at $125,000 to $175,000. It
sold for $110,000. The auction also has a very fine portrait
head of a woman with almost the same dating, Lot 194, that is
estimated at $50,000 to $70,000 and was formerly in the collection
of Hagop Kevorkian. It sold for $40,000. Another
from the same general period is Lot 196 is a marble portrait bust
of the Emperor Trajan that is conservatively estimated at $40,000
to $60,000. It sold for $57,500. Lot 201, a marble portrait
head of a woman, Roman Imperial, Antonine, or Severan, circa A.D.
150-200, was hammered done for twice her low estimate of $60,000.
The woman's hair was exquisited carved but the face had a badly
damaged nose and was missing most of its jaw, while Lot 200, was
in fabulous condition!
the Egyptian pieces, Lot 62, a serpentine figure of a man, late
26th - 27th Dynasty, circa 550-404 B.C., 7 5/8 inches high, is
very fine and conservatively estimated at $12,000 to $18,000.
It sold for $55,000. Lot 25, an
unfinished and not impressive
carved limestone figure of a man, 5th-6th Dynasty, 2520-2195 B.C.,
45 inches tall, was hammered down for $130,000, more than four
times its $30,000 low estimate. Lot 28, a 18 1/2 inch high bronze
figure of Osiris, 30th Dynasty/Ptolemaic Period, circa 380-350
B.C., was sold for $130,000, more than twice its low estimate.
The large piece was in excellent condition except that it was
missing the head of the snake at the front of its helmet and part
of its rectangular base was damaged in the front.
limestone reliefs did very well especially as the quality of the
several lots offered was not outstanding. Lot 37, for example,
was a 14 1/4 inch fragment from the 19th Dynasty, probably reign
of Seti I, 1290-1279 B.C., and was hammered down for $50,000,
five times its low estimate. The carving of a head of a nobleman
was very fine but his cheek was damaged.
nice piece is Lot 326, a bronze figure of the Horus falcon flanked
by two striding lions, 26th Dynasty, 664-525 B.C., that is estimated
at only $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for $5,750 (including the
auction has three excellent and desirable Ibis sculptures, Lots
52, 53 and 328. The first is a bronze and alabaster figure of
a standing bird, 8 1/2 inches high and estimated at $12,000 to
$18,000. It sold for its low estimate. The second,
below, 6 7/8 inches long, is similar but the bird is seated and
it has the same estimates. It sold for its high estimate. The
third lot is a very nice bronze sculpture, 4 inches high, that
is estimated at $2,000 to $3,000. It sold for $3,757
the buyer's premium).
consigned by the estate
of Mrs. John Hay Whitney is an exquisite Greek bronze figure of
a horse, Geometric Period, 8th Century B.C., Lot 107. This highly
stylized and beautiful work, shown below, has a very subtle serrated
mane. It is 3 5/8 inches high and has an estimate of $40,000 to
$60,000, reflecting the Whitney provenance that has proven very
successful this season. It sold for $170,000! (A
smaller bronze horse of the same period, Lot 111, but in much
inferior condition is estimated at only $4,000 to $6,000. It
sold for $8,000.)
small Greek bronze, Lot 108, has the same estimate as the Whitney
horse, but while it is also highly stylized it does not have the
same grace. It is a figure of a recumbent goat and is dated circa
550-530 B.C. It sold for $120,000, twice its high estimate.
149, an impressive Hellenistic bronze figure of Alexander the
Greeat, circa 3rd Century B.C., 19 1/4 inches tall, was hammered
down for $220,000, well over its $120,000 high estimate. The figure's
hair was slightly damaged and it was missing its left hand, but
otherwise it was an imposing, if not exciting work.
Greek works include Lot 142, a very nice Attic Black-Figure Column
Krater, circa 510 B.C., that is estimated at only $12,000 to $18,000,
and Lot 144, a superb Attic Black-Figure Lekythos, circa 540-530
B.C., that is estimated at $80,000 to $120,000. The former
sold for $17,000 and the latter was hammered down for $95,000.