The April 26 London sale of antiquities at Christie’s has a surprisingly large number of very intriguing works. There are, however, some with “Private Swiss Collection” provenances, something that usually raises a red flag for me as the old free port system in Switzerland was too often used to launder looted works or artifacts with sketchy backgrounds. So, we’ll see if something gets pulled before the sale (like that Khmer piece last year at Sotheby’s in New York). I’ve selected a fair number of items, including some jewelry, about which I’m not particularly passionate, but these pieces (especially lots 374 and 383) are impressive. There’s some wonderful statuary, metal work and the odd pot or two.
Lot 140. AN EGYPTIAN LIMESTONE CULT STATUE OF NECTANEBO I
LATE PERIOD, DYNASTY XXX, REIGN OF NECTANEBO I, CIRCA 380-362 B.C. Standing with left leg advanced, wearing the White Crown with frontal uraeus, the oval face with almond-shaped eyes recessed for inlay, now missing, full cheeks, fleshy lips and rounded chin, with large finely carved ears, the arms bent at the elbow and raised, holding a lotus in his left hand, the fingernails delineated, right hand missing, with square shoulders and naturalistically modelled broad chest, the tear-shaped navel recessed, wearing a belted ankle-length kilt, the frontal fold incised, the long elegant feet with finely detailed nails, on an integral rectangular base, supported by a back-pillar, tapering towards the upper tip. 55 1/8 in. (140 cm.) high. Estimate: £600,000 – £900,000 ($951,600 – $1,427,400).Bidding on this lot opened at £300,000 and stopped at £380,000 and it failed to sell.
Nectanebo I or Nakhtnebef (380-362 B.C.), was the first king of the last dynasty in Egypt and the last major native pharaoh. An army general from Tjebnetjer, his main priority, with the country living under the constant threat of Persian invasion, was to be, a ‘mighty king who guards Egypt, a copper wall which protects Egypt’. (Naukratis stela, 11. 2-3. Cf. T. Wilkinson, The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, London, 2010, p. 456). In a bid to restore the image of the monarchy which had seen a period of dynastic strife in the preceding years, he embarked upon an ambitious temple-building programme. He recognised that the temples controlled much of the country’s wealth and that by investing in them he was improving the national economy. This in turn was an effective way of shoring up Egypt’s defensive capability. An astute political ruler, Nectanebo appointed his son as heir and co-regent (365-360 B.C.) in order to ensure a smooth transition of power. See T. Wilkinson, op. cit., pp. 456-457.
This statue is an important addition to the corpus of royal sculpture from the Late Period. There are almost no examples that compare to this statue in terms of size, subject-matter and excellence of preservation. Although not inscribed, this statue can be dated to the Late Period and Dynasty XXX on stylistic grounds. For a head in the Louvre, also identified as Nectanebo I, cf. J. A. Josephson, Egyptian Royal Sculpture of the Late Period: 400-246 B.C., Mainz, 1997, pl. 2d.
Lot 148. A BACTRIAN BRONZE AXE HEAD CIRCA LATE 3RD-EARLY 2ND MILLENNIUM B.C. 5½ in. (14 cm.) high. Estimate: £15,000 – £20,000 ($23,790 – $31,720). Bidding on this lot opened at £10,000 and stopped at £12,000 and it failed to sell.
Lot 169. A MARLIK SILVER CUP CIRCA LATE 2ND MILLENNIUM B.C.
The underside with double rosette, bands of guilloche around lower body and rim, the main field with band of three bulls walking to the right, their bodies worked in low relief, their heads turned outwards in high relief. 5¼ in. (13.2 cm.) high. Estimate: £100,000 – £200,000 ($158,600 – $317,200). Bidding on this lot opened at £65,000 and the hammer price was £90,000 (£109,250/$176,111 including the buyer’s premium).
Detail Lot 169. A MARLIK SILVER CUP CIRCA LATE 2ND MILLENNIUM B.C.
Lot 184. A WESTERN ASIATIC SILVER JAR CIRCA 7TH-6TH CENTURY B.C.
The spherical body decorated with bands of gilt appliqués including rosettes, column capitals and palmettes. 3¼ in. (8.3 cm.) high. Estimate: £20,000 – £30,000
($31,720 – $47,580).Bidding on this lot opened at £16,000 and stopped at £17,000 and it failed to sell.
Lot 185. A NEO-ELAMITE SILVER BEAKER CIRCA 585-539 B.C.
The hammered conical vessel with rounded base, with incised decoration, the base with petalled rosette, a lotus calyx above with undulating curves from which rise twelve long overlapping petals, each bisected by incised lines, the interior of the flaring rim with a cuneiform inscription for Annishilha, King of Samati, son of Dabala (King Annishila can be dated to the second phase of the Neo-Elamite period, circa 585-539 B.C.). 6¾ in. (17.1 cm.) high. Estimate: £70,000 – £100,000 ($111,020 – $158,600). Bidding on this lot opened at £50,000 and the hammer price was £70,000 (£85,250/$137,423 including the buyer’s premium). This was acquired by the same bidder who purchased lot 169.
- Lot 192. AN ELYMAEAN SILVER BOWL CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
Decorated on the interior with an applied tondo in high relief depicting Ganymeade and Zeus in the form of an eagle, the figure of winged Eros to the right, a fine Elymaean variety of Aramaic inscription running around the exterior rim. 10 in. (25.5 cm.) diam. Estimate: £150,000 – £250,000 ($237,900 – $396,500). Bidding on this lot opened at £100,000 and the hammer price was £150,000 (£181,250/$292,175 including the buyer’s premium) . This was acquired by the same bidder who purchased lots 169 and 185.
Elymais was a local, so-called ‘Hellenistic’ dynasty, in south-western Iran which flourished during the Seleucid and Arsakid periods, circa 188 B.C. to 222 A.D. The word Elymais is a diminutive of Elam and can be translated as Elam Minor.
The Elymaean variety of Aramaic has only been known from the coinage of the rulers of Elymais and a few short rock inscriptions. Although not perfectly preserved and with several words not clear, the present inscription on the bowl above is believed to be the largest known. It begins with a date ‘in the month of Teshri of year 488’, which would correspond with the date of 177 A.D. There follows a reference to a king named Kamnaskires Orodes-Farah, apparently the person who ‘deposited this cup’. The names Kamnaskires, Orodes and Phraates, and the combination of Kamnaskies Orodes, can be found on coins of the dynasty but the exact dates for these rulers are unknown and the same names reappear frequently over the years, making it difficult to determine which king is mentioned here. Further, the inscription refers to a king Orodes-Farah, but it is not obvious whether this is the same king as mentioned at the beginning or one of his successors. The final words of the inscription read, ‘May it maintain his patrimony and may there be protection for ever’.
Detail Lot 192. AN ELYMAEAN SILVER BOWL CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
Lot 194. A SASANIAN SILVER BOWL CIRCA 6TH-8TH CENTURY A.D.
Of deep elliptical form, the interior decorated with a central engraved fish, a band of boars’ heads encircling the rim on the exterior. 7 3/8 in. (18.7 cm.) diam. max. Estimate: £7,000 – £10,000 ($11,102 – $15,860). Bidding on this lot opened at £4,000 and stopped at £6,500 and this lot failed to sell.
The band of boars heads cracks me up.
Lot 195. A SASANIAN CARNELIAN INTAGLIO WITH PORTRAIT BUST CIRCA 5TH-6TH CENTURY A.D.
With bearded head in profile, hair falling in ringlets, wearing the kulaf headdress with central monogram, pendant earrings, beaded and pearl necklaces, cloak and floral garland, with astral symbols of the sun and moon in the field. 1 3/8 in.(3.5 cm.) high. Estimate: £25,000 – £30,000
($39,650 – $47,580). Bidding on this lot opened at £16,000 and stopped at £19,000 and it failed to sell.
Originally there would have been an identifying description in Pahlavi; however, this appears to have been deliberately effaced. This seal certainly represents a high dignitary, perhaps the Great-Commander or the Court Councellor to the Sasanian court. However, without the surrounding inscription which would have given his personal name, title and perhaps a formula or epithet, it is impossible to suggest who this figure might be. The monogram on the kulaf may represent a personal symbol or one used by an entire family. For similar seals in the British Museum, cf. A. D. H. Bivar, Catalogue of the Western Asiatic Seals in The British Museum, Stamp Seals II: The Sassanian Dynasty, London, 1969, pp. 49-50, nos AD1-AD8, pl. 3.
Lot. 211. A ROMAN MARBLE RELIEF WITH THE DIOSCURI CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
With the standing figures of Castor and Pollux holding the reins of their horses, both nude but for a chlamys and pilos helmet, carrying a short spear, flaming altar at the centre, with a bull, cock and wild boar in front, two stars and a crescent moon in the field above. 38 3/8 x 21½ in. (97.5 x 54.5 cm.). Estimate:£60,000 – £80,000 ($95,160 – $126,880). This lot opened at £35,000 and was fought over by five bidders before reaching a hammer price of £260,000 (£313,205/$504,959 including the buyer’s premium).
The Greek Dioskouri, Castor and Polydeuces, were the twin sons of Zeus and Leda. They were introduced in Rome circa 500 B.C. and their names were Latinised as the Castores, Castor and Pollux. They are best known for three mythological events. The first was the rescue of their sister Helen after she was kidnapped by Theseus. They carried off Theseus’ mother Aethra at the same time. In the second, they took part in the expedition on the Argo with Jason. During the voyage, Pollux killed King Amycus, who had challenged him to a boxing match. The third was their abduction of Phoebe and Hilaeira, the daughters of King Leucippus, whom they later married. Idas and Lynceus, the nephews of Leucippus, pursued the twins, and in the resulting battle, Castor, along with the nephews, were killed. Pollux was granted immortality by Zeus, but he persuaded Zeus to allow him to share the gift with Castor, as a result, the two spent alternate days on Olympus and in Hades.
Lot 236. A CORINTHIAN BLACK-FIGURED COLUMN KRATER ATTRIBUTED TO THE DETROIT PAINTER, MIDDLE CORINTHIAN PERIOD, CIRCA 590 B.C.
Decorated in two registers,
The upper register of the obverse showing a wedding procession, with two quadrigas with two couples advancing to the right, the first with four black and red horses, the second with a white horse, the mane in alternate red and black stripes, and three black and red horses, three female attendants facing left beside the horses, wearing full length chitons, followed by two warriors advancing to the right, carrying long spears, beside pairs of horses, rosettes, lizards, snakes and birds in the field;
The upper register of the reverse with a frieze of five pairs of horsemen galloping to the left, wearing crested helmets and carrying circular shields with whirl as device, a dog chasing a hare between their legs, another in front leaping towards a bird with head turned back, birds and rosettes in the field; the lower registers with a frieze of alternate panthers and ibexes; griffin birds under each handle, a rosette beneath one wing, seated winged sphinx on handle-plate, the rim with a frieze of palmette-lotus chain, diagonal wavy lines along the outer edge, alternate black and red tongues on the shoulder, rays above the foot, upper and lower registers separated by thin red and black encircling bands, details in added red
16 in. (41.9 cm.) high, 19 in. (49.5 cm.) diam. incl. handle-plates. Estimate: £350,000 – £550,000
($555,100 – $872,300). Bidding on this lot opened at £260,000 and stopped bidding at £280,000 and this lot failed to sell.
The name piece of the Detroit Painter is a column krater with a banquet scene in the Detroit Institute of Art. A companion and follower of the Medallion Painter, in all only six other vases, all of them column kraters, have been attributed to his hand by D. A. Amyx (Amyx, Corinthian Vase Painting of the Archaic Period, California, 1988, pp. 196-197, A, nos 1-7): Louvre E 614; Louvre CP 10479; Louvre E 630; New York 27.116; Villa Giulia 46197; Riehen, Private (once Basel market). Possibly by the Detroit Painter, according to Amyx, are the fragment Bonn 374.19 and Cerveteri, BUF 999/67622, both column kraters (Amyx 1988, p. 197, AP, nos 1-2).
The Detroit Painter’s favourite subjects are the banquet scene, with which he decorated Louvre CP 10479, Louvre E 630, and the Detroit krater; horsemen, which appear on all his known works; and the animal frieze. On the krater in New York, he also illustrated the wedding of Paris and Helen, complete with inscriptions.
Marriage scenes were popular subject-matter in Corinthian pottery of this period, the most famous being the marriage of Peleus and Thetis on the Francois Vase in the Museo Archaeologico, Florence, with a procession of gods and goddesses in chariots. For a dinos by Sophilos in the British Museum depicting the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (inv. no. 1971,1101.1), cf. D. Williams,Greek Vases, London, 1999. On the above example, the figures are not named, so it is not known whether this scene shows a wedding procession of gods or mortals.
Kraters such as these would have been considered high-status, luxury objects in antiquity.
Lot 236. A CORINTHIAN BLACK-FIGURED COLUMN KRATER ATTRIBUTED TO THE DETROIT PAINTER, MIDDLE CORINTHIAN PERIOD, CIRCA 590 B.C.
Detail Lot 236. A CORINTHIAN BLACK-FIGURED COLUMN KRATER ATTRIBUTED TO THE DETROIT PAINTER, MIDDLE CORINTHIAN PERIOD, CIRCA 590 B.C.
Lot 258. A CYPRIOT LIMESTONE MALE HEAD CIRCA 460-450 B.C.
With curled hair and full beard, crowned with an olive wreath, the face with lidded almond-shaped eyes and an archaic smile, mounted on a 19th Century wood base. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm.) high. Estimate: £40,000 – £60,000 ($63,440 – $95,160). Bidding on this lot opened at £30,000 and the hammer price was £85,000 (103,250/$166,439 including the buyer’s premium).
Lot 288. A GREEK PARCEL GILT SILVER BOWL HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 2ND CENTURY B.C.
Hemispherical in form with a gilt band below the interior rim, the gilt tondo with a sleeping winged Eros in relief, the chubby nude child reclining on a gilt open seven-petalled rose, his left arm over his face, his right arm stretched out behind his head, wearing gilt anklets, bracelets and body chain, his wings and curling hair also gilt
7¼ in. (18.5 cm.) diam. Estimate: £25,000 – £35,000 ($39,650 – $55,510). Bidding on this lot opened at £18,000 and stopped at £20,000 and this lot failed to sell.
Though previously depicted as a youthful adult, in the Hellenistic Period artistic trends evolved to capture the God of Love as a young boy, physically paunchy with childlike and even mischievous manners. As M. Bieber describes in The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1967, p. 145, ‘after dancing, floating through the air, enjoying banquets, and shooting his arrows at young men and women, the mischievous boy is tired and falls asleep’.
Lot 289. THREE GREEK SILVER VESSELS HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA LATE 4TH CENTURY B.C.
Including two calyx-form cups with hemispherical bodies and concave necks with flaring rims, each interior with a gilt silver boss, one with a lion’s head, the other with human mask with long flowing hair; and a trefoil-lipped oinochoe on a flaring foot, carinated shoulder, the triple-reeded handle with a leaf-shaped terminalCups: 3 in. (7.6 cm.) high max. Oinochoe: 5 in. (14 cm.) high (3). Estimate: £40,000 – £60,000 ($63,440 – $95,160). Bidding on this lot opened at £28,000 and stopped at £32,000 and this lot failed to sell.
Lot 290. A GREEK SILVER PLATE SELEUCID, HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 3RD-1ST CENTURY B.C.
Of shallow slightly concave form, the underside cast with sixty-two radiating ribs, each incised around the perimeter, their tips undercut. 13 3/8 in. (34 cm.) diam. 82 oz. (2583 gr.). Estimate: £100,000 – £150,000 ($158,600 – $237,900). Bidding on this lot opened at £80,000 and the hammer price was £100,000 (£121,250/$195,455 including the buyer’s premium).
The wealth of the Seleucid Empire led to extravagant tastes, and heavy silver vessels such as this one were fashionable among society’s elite. This plate is unusually heavy and roughly corresponds to a multiple of standard weights of the time. 82 troy ounces is roughly equivalent to between 450-470 Persian sigloi, which ranged in weight from 5.45, 5.55 and 5.69 grams. Comparatively little Seleucid silver survives today since during periods of political instability, much of the existing silver was melted down for basic coinage, making this large and impressive plate a rare survival from antiquity.
Lot 315. A ROMAN PARCEL GILT SILVER SKYPHOS CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.-EARLY 1ST CENTURY A.D.
The outer shell decorated in repoussé with a gilded scrolling fruiting grape vine, the broad leaves moulded with fine ribs, the thick stems bound together with a garland tied in a bow under one handle, a thin gilt band of incised scrolling above, the rim with a gilt band of ovolo, the ring handles separately cast, the thumbplates incised with voluted scrolls, attached to the vessel rim with the head of a long-beaked bird on either side, details incised, their heads with stippled dots, on a high baluster stem and disc foot decorated with a gilt chased foliate pattern. 3 7/8 in. (9.8 cm) high. Estimate: £120,000 – £180,000 ($190,320 – $285,480). Bidding on this lot opened at £85,000 and stopped at £110,000 and this lot failed to sell.
Drinking cups in silver were highly prized possessions and avidly collected in antiquity. From about 100 B.C. onwards the skyphos became the most popular type of luxury vessel with wealthy Romans. Foliate decoration was an obvious choice of subject matter for wine-cups, the grapevine being an apt motif. The vessels were enriched with gilding applied by creating an amalgam of mercury vaporized with gold. Such precious possessions would serve to demonstrate the taste and elegance of their owners and literary sources reveal that very high prices were paid for the best examples. For a discussion on silver plate during the late Republic and early Empire, cf. M. Henig,A Handbook of Roman Art, Oxford, 1983, pp. 139-148. For a similarly decorated silver cup from Alesia in the Musée de St-Germain-en-Laye, cf. D. E. Strong, Greek and Roman Silver Plate, London, 1966, p. 115, pl. 33b.
Detail Lot 315. A ROMAN PARCEL GILT SILVER SKYPHOS CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.-EARLY 1ST CENTURY A.D.
Lot 316. A ROMAN ARCHAISTIC MARBLE HERM OF HERMES PROPYLAIOS CIRCA 1ST CENTURY B.C. 1ST CENTURY A.D.
The god with archaic-style flowing beard and hair, the hair arranged in three rows of tight curls over the brow, with long strands falling on to his shoulders, wearing a fillet, on an integral rectangular base. 14¾ in. (37.5 cm.) high. Estimate: £50,000 – £80,000 ($79,300 – $126,880). Bidding on this lot opened at £38,000 and made a hammer price of £50,000 (£61,250/$98,735 including the buyer’s premium). The same buyer purchased lot 258, Cypriot Limestone Male Head (illustrated above).
Lot 319. A ROMAN MARBLE APHRODITE CIRCA 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.
Leaning with her left arm bent, her elbow resting atop a pillar, her right arm outstretched, her left leg crossed in front of her right, her drapery falling in heavy folds. 16½ in. (42 cm.) high. Estimate: £40,000 – £60,000 ($63,440 – $95,160). Bidding on this lot opened at £28,000 and it made a hammer price of £100,000 (£121,250/$195,455 including the buyer’s premium).
Stylistically the Aphrodite presented here most likely belongs to the ‘Aphrodite in the Garden’ type, the Greek original dating to the 5th Century B.C. by Alkamenes of Athens and mentioned by Pausanias, Guide to Greece, I, 19, 2 (LIMC, op. cit., pp. 30-31, nos 193-196). For a similar unveiled large-scale version of the ‘Aphrodite in the Garden’ in the Louvre, see no. MA414.
Saleroom Notice: It has been suggested that this lot could be Hellenistic in date, circa 2nd-1st Century B.C.
Lot 320. A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF GERMANICUS CIRCA 1ST CENTURY A.D.
With luxurious curling hair falling in short waves over his forehead and in front of his ears, with large lidded eyes, an aquiline nose and small narrow lips. 11¾ in. (30 cm.) high. Estimate: £50,000 – £80,000 ($79,300 – $126,880). Bidding on this lot opened at £32,000 and made a hammer price of £90,000 (£109,250/$176,111 including the buyer’s premium).
Germanicus Julius Caesar (15 B.C.-A.D. 19) was the son of Drusus Major and Antonia Minor and the brother of Claudius, who later became emperor. Tiberius (reigned A.D. 14-37) was his uncle and adoptive father. Germanicus’ military career was distinguished; he commanded the eight Roman legions on the Rhine frontier, recovering two of the legionary standards lost after a military disaster in the Teutoberg forest (A.D. 9). He became immensely popular among the people of Rome, who celebrated his military victories. The Roman biographer Suetonius in hisLife of Caligula, III, describes Germanicus’ ‘… unexampled kindliness, and a remarkable desire and capacity for winning men’s regard and inspiring their affection’. Following his untimely death through illness at Antioch at the age of thirty-four, he was elevated to god-like status.
Detail Lot 320. A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF GERMANICUS CIRCA 1ST CENTURY A.D.
Lot 321. A ROMAN BRONZE CHARIOT FITTING CIRCA 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.
In the form of a pantheress standing with mouth agape revealing a lolling tongue and teeth, with pointed ears, heavy teats, and a long tail curled over at end, with incised markings to indicate her coat and ribs, wearing a chest harness held with a circular clasp at back of neck, the rein guard in the form of a right-angled human finger supported on a spiral volute below, the integral rectangular base with an attachment socket on the underside. 6¾ in. (17 cm.) long. Estimate: £100,000 – £150,000 ($158,600 – $237,900). Bidding on this lot (the cover image on the sale catalogue) opened at £80,000 and stopped at £95,000 and it failed to sell.
The harness that the pantheress wears indicates that she would have been one of the panthers drawing the chariot of Dionysos on his triumphal return from Asia, a scene most often found on Roman sarcophagi.
The hooked finger at the side secured or held straps or reins. These hooks took various forms including figural busts, leaping felines or more commonly duck heads. The use of the human finger might suggest some kind of apotropaic function to ward off evil spirits or bad luck.
Detail Lot 321. A ROMAN BRONZE CHARIOT FITTING CIRCA 1ST-2ND CENTURY A.D.
Lot 330. A ROMAN PARCEL GILT SILVER FLUTED BOWL CIRCA 3RD CENTURY A.D.
With 32 deep flutes, the scalloped rim gilt, the interior with silver gilt tondo joined to the interior by six rivets, decorated with the raised repoussé head of a frontally facing satyr wearing foliate ivy wreath with berries, small horns on his forehead emerging through his wavy hair, with detailed eyes and long lashes, his brows knitted together with frown lines on his forehead, his lips parted in a grimace, bordered with two pecking birds below and ivy leaf tendrils running up the sides, and a wave pattern above his head and under his chin, the bowl on raised ring foot with rounded edges, incised concentric circles and an ownership inscription in Graeco-Bactrian cursive script reading ‘Property of Mawe-guzg’. 9¼ in. (23.5 cm.) diam.. 26 oz. (808 gr.). Estimate: £300,000 – £400,000 ($475,800 – $634,400). Bidding on this lot opened at £220,000 and stopped at £240,000 and this lot failed to sell.
Bowls and dishes ornamented with central relief emblemata or medallions have been known since the early Hellenistic period. In Roman times these ‘show pieces’ were an indication of a family’s wealth and status and would have been proudly displayed, the high relief decoration making practical use impossible. Such pieces would have been passed down as family heirlooms, treasured and collected.
Complete bowls are rare but detached emblemata have been found all over the Hellenistic and Roman world.
The Graeco-Bactrian inscription reads, ‘maoêogozgi xobo’, ‘Property of Mawê-guzg’.
Lot 330. A ROMAN PARCEL GILT SILVER FLUTED BOWL CIRCA 3RD CENTURY A.D.
Detail Lot 330. A ROMAN PARCEL GILT SILVER FLUTED BOWL CIRCA 3RD CENTURY A.D.
Lot 353. A GREEK GOLD SNAKE ARMLET HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 4TH-2ND CENTURY B.C.
Formed of a spiralling band, with a medial row of stamped circles, representing the bodies of the snakes, each end with incised scales, one end terminating with pair of intertwining snake heads, decorated with four circular and one central leaf-shaped bezel, all with beaded wire borders, inlays now missing, the other end terminating with their tails, curving round and continuing along the body as a looped trail, decorated with two tear-shaped bezels, inlays now missing. 6¾ in. (17.2 cm.) long. Estimate: £80,000 – £100,000 ($126,880 – $158,600). Bidding on this lot opened at £60,000 and stopped at £65,000 and this lot failed to sell.
According to B. Deppert-Lipptiz, the bracelet is the rarest type of Greek jewellery to have survived. They were worn in pairs and could be remarkable in size, (D. Williams (ed.), The Art of the Greek Goldsmith, London, 1998, p. 91).
Snake bracelets became common during the Archaic period, when it was believed that snakes had amuletic properties and an association with the Underworld. The motif can be seen on female figures depicted on Athenian vases during the 6th and 5th Centuries B.C. However it was during the Hellenistic Period that there was a ‘veritable explosion of the snake motif on jewelry’, (R. S. Bianchi et al., Cleopatra’s Egypt: Age of the Ptolemies, New York, 1988, p. 202), as Macedonian gold became abundant and the skill of the goldsmith reached its zenith.
Lot 354. A GREEK GOLD MYRTLE WREATH HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 3RD-2ND CENTURY B.C.
Composed of four hinged gold bands, rounded on the exterior, flat on the interior, each decorated with long spear-shaped leaves with a central midrib, with fruit on delicate wire stems, each with a detailed filigree calyx, the terminals composed of beaded and twisted wire bands, row of tongues with twisted wire borders, three acanthus leaves with serrated edges and twisted wire borders, and two laurel leaves with beaded borders, with modern loops and an S-clasp closure. 8¼ in. (21 cm.) diam. Estimate: £100,000 – £150,000 ($158,600 – $237,900). Bidding on this lot opened at £70,000 and made a hammer price of £150,000 (£181,250/$292,175 including the buyer’s premium).
For a discussion on wreaths cf. D. Williams and J. Ogden, Greek Gold: Jewellery of the Classical World, London, 1994, pp. 35-36 where the author notes, ‘The most elaborate items of jewellery were usually made for the adornment of the head…There were also gold wreaths (stephanoi). Examples of gold wreaths of oak, olive, ivy, vine, laurel and myrtle leaves are known from burials in Macedonia, South Italy, Asia Minor and the North Pontic area.’
Gold wreaths were frequently given as prizes for athletics and musical contests, bestowed by the State as a mark of honour. They were also used in religious processions, as funerary decorations and were popular dedicatory offerings made in temples.
Saleroom Notice:The provenance for this lot has now been confirmed as:
W.H. Forman collection, Pippbrook House, Surrey, thence by descent to his nephew Major A.H. Browne, Callaly Castle, Northumberland.
The Forman Collection of Antiquities and Objects of Art of the Renaissance; Sotheby Wilkinson & Hodge, 1899, lot 412.
Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael, Bt., Castle Craig, Scotland.
Catalogue of the Well-Known Collection of Works of Art of the Classic, Medieval and Renaissance Times, formed by Sir Thomas Gibson Carmichael, BART. of Castle Craig; Christie, Manson & Woods, London, 12 May 1902, lot 180, illus.
Hever Castle, England, before 1987.
The Property of a Nobleman, Christie’s, London, 11 December 1987, lot 19.
Detail Lot 354. A GREEK GOLD MYRTLE WREATH HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 3RD-2ND CENTURY B.C.
Lot 374. A ROMAN GOLD AND GREEN JASPER INTAGLIO RING CIRCA 4TH-5TH CENTURY A.D.
The flat hoop widening to the high oval bezel, set with intaglio with a victorious bearded nimbate and radiate emperor, wearing tunic, holding right hand aloft, an orb with cross in his left hand, driving a facing quadriga, all four horses rearing up. Intaglio ¾ in. (1.8 cm.) wide; ring size M. Estimate: £30,000 – £50,000 ($47,580 – $79,300). Bidding on this lot stopped at £20,000 and it failed to sell.
Profile/Detail Lot 374. A ROMAN GOLD AND GREEN JASPER INTAGLIO RING CIRCA 4TH-5TH CENTURY A.D.
Lot 383. A PAIR OF BYZANTINE GOLD PENANNULAR BRACELETS CIRCA 5TH-6TH CENTURY A.D.
The hollow circular hoops terminating in two confronting ram heads, with curling ribbed horns, recessed eyes and ears for inlays, some turquoise ear inlays remaining, each ram wearing double beaded collar, the interior of the hoop decorated with two rows of punched circles, the exterior with triple raised ribs interspersed with a swan, hare(?), lion, four-petalled rosette, and bird in relief, a Greek inscription around one edge with a cross reading, ‘He who lives by the help of the Most High’. 4 in. (10 cm.) across max. (2). Estimate: £40,000 – £60,000 ($63,440 – $95,160). Bidding on this lot opened and stopped at £32,000 and it failed to sell.
Each bracelet has the same inscription but the letters are divided in different ways. On both bracelets the phrase is preceded by a cross, which makes them clearly Christian. The phrase is a direct quotation from Psalm 90:1 in the Septuagint version (91 in the Masoretic text), and most frequently appears in the Eastern Mediterranean, especially Syria and Egypt.
Detail Lot 383. A PAIR OF BYZANTINE GOLD PENANNULAR BRACELETS CIRCA 5TH-6TH CENTURY A.D