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Top Ten Antiquities at Christie’s with Questionable Provenance – with sale results

May 30, 2014
Lot 30. AN EGYPTIAN LIMESTONE RELIEF  PTOLEMAIC PERIOD, 304-30 B.C.  Sculpted in sunk relief, the sky goddess Nut to the left arching over a horizontal line representing Geb, the earth god, and the god Khepri, in the form of a scarab beetle, a lion to the right with its right forepaw raised, representing Horakhty, and Isis seated to the right, looking left, all on a groundline, the upper portion of a hieroglyphic inscription below 19 in. (48.2 cm.) wide  Estimate: $20,000-30,000 Click on image to enlarge.

Lot 30. AN EGYPTIAN LIMESTONE RELIEF
PTOLEMAIC PERIOD, 304-30 B.C.
Sculpted in sunk relief, the sky goddess Nut to the left arching over a horizontal line representing Geb, the earth god, and the god Khepri, in the form of a scarab beetle, a lion to the right with its right forepaw raised, representing Horakhty, and Isis seated to the right, looking left, all on a groundline, the upper portion of a hieroglyphic inscription below
19 in. (48.2 cm.) wide
Estimate: $20,000-30,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $60,000 ($75,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.
Provenance
with Charles Ede, London, 1979 (Small Sculpture from Ancient Egypt, vol. VII, no. 6).

UPDATE: Dubious provenance is not a deterrent – that would seem to be the lesson of this sale. Complete sale results.

ORIGINAL POST: Christie’s June 5, 2014 Antiquities auction in New York has a considerable number of works that lack a pre-1970 provenance – including six of the top ten lots (by estimate) and at least 80 of the 129 lots offered, or nearly two-thirds.  The “pre-1970″ refers to the date of an internationalUNESCO convention aimed at halting the looting of antiquities. As the New York Times reported, ‘In 2004 the Association of Art Museum Directors declared “member museums should not acquire” any undocumented works “that were removed after November 1970, regardless of any applicable statutes of limitation.”’ Numerous American museums – including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Boston’s Museum of Fine Art and the Getty in Los Angeles – have been forced to return looted antiquities to their host countries. I would argue that private collectors should follow these guidelines and avoid works without a pre-1970 provenance.

Erin Thompson, a professor at the City University of New York and the author of the forthcoming book “To Own the Past: How Collectors Reveal, Shape, and Destroy History,” has penned an op-ed titled “Egypt’s Looted Antiquities” for tomorrow’s International New York Times that addresses the ongoing looting problem in that country and how collectors, among others, could respond.

Lot 20. AN EGYTPIAN GRAYWACKE NAOPHOROS FOR THE PRIEST TJA-KHONSU-IMU  LATE PERIOD, 26TH-30TH DYNASTY, 664-343 B.C.  Depicted kneeling, wearing a belted kilt, his toes splayed beneath him, proffering a shrine with Hathor, the heavenly cow, depicted frontally, with long straight forelegs and defined hooves, a solar disk in between her horns, the integral base and back-pillar with a hieroglyphic inscription including part of an offering formula, a form of the "Appeal to the Living," and a list of benefactions that the offerer, the priest Tja-Khonsu-imu, did for the temple and good deeds for the needy, the continuous inscription running along the right side, back and left side of the base, reading; "with/by means of every good, pure, sweet thing for the Ka of the Venerated One Tja-Khonsu-imu, son of Pe-di-Osiris, , for his Ka, which are given to him for breathing and being exalted and pleasant of heart, the House of Hauling, with the child...Lord of...[from ?] you, Lord of the Gods, burial a tomb on the desert of the Beautiful West (?), a tomb in the presence of...," the back-pillar comprising two columns, reading right to left: "...excellent of character (?), of the First Servant of the Goddess (?)/First Prophet (?) Tja-Khonsu-imu, son of Pe-di-Osiris, conceived by Ta-Osiris, He says: O any God's Servant/Prophet, any Wab-priest, any speaker who will recite this utterance (?), I shall praise the god on his account exceedingly...I turned toward the House of the Eye of Horus, a throne carved from cedar (or mountain pine), an offering table consisting of engraved bronze. I gave bread to the hungry, water the thirsty, so that he distinguished me on account of what (I) did" 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) high Estimate: $80,000-120,000 Click on Image to enlarge. Provenance with Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres, Paris. with Mr. S, Zurich, acquired from the above in 1982.

Lot 20. AN EGYTPIAN GRAYWACKE NAOPHOROS FOR THE PRIEST TJA-KHONSU-IMU
LATE PERIOD, 26TH-30TH DYNASTY, 664-343 B.C.
Depicted kneeling, wearing a belted kilt, his toes splayed beneath him, proffering a shrine with Hathor, the heavenly cow, depicted frontally, with long straight forelegs and defined hooves, a solar disk in between her horns, the integral base and back-pillar with a hieroglyphic inscription including part of an offering formula, a form of the “Appeal to the Living,” and a list of benefactions that the offerer, the priest Tja-Khonsu-imu, did for the temple and good deeds for the needy, the continuous inscription running along the right side, back and left side of the base, reading; “with/by means of every good, pure, sweet thing for the Ka of the Venerated One Tja-Khonsu-imu, son of Pe-di-Osiris, , for his Ka, which are given to him for breathing and being exalted and pleasant of heart, the House of Hauling, with the child…Lord of…[from ?] you, Lord of the Gods, burial a tomb on the desert of the Beautiful West (?), a tomb in the presence of…,” the back-pillar comprising two columns, reading right to left: “…excellent of character (?), of the First Servant of the Goddess (?)/First Prophet (?) Tja-Khonsu-imu, son of Pe-di-Osiris, conceived by Ta-Osiris, He says: O any God’s Servant/Prophet, any Wab-priest, any speaker who will recite this utterance (?), I shall praise the god on his account exceedingly…I turned toward the House of the Eye of Horus, a throne carved from cedar (or mountain pine), an offering table consisting of engraved bronze. I gave bread to the hungry, water the thirsty, so that he distinguished me on account of what (I) did”
13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) high
Estimate: $80,000-120,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $75,000 and it failed to sell.
Click on Image to enlarge.
Provenance
with Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres, Paris.
with Mr. S, Zurich, acquired from the above in 1982.

Lot 60. A CYCLADIC MARBLE HEAD  EARLY SPEDOS VARIETY, EARLY CYCLADIC II, CIRCA 2600-2500 B.C.  From a large reclining figure, with a thick neck, the lyre-shaped head with a rounded chin and broad cheeks, the long triangular nose well centered, the convex face with a high sloping forehead tapering toward the top and terminating in a sharp-edged flat oval, the ears modelled in relief and indented at their centers, with traces of pigment "ghosts" for the eyes 5 in. (12.7 cm.) high  Estimate: $150,000-250,000. Click on image to enlarge. Provenance with Uraeus, Paris, prior to 1980.

Lot 60. A CYCLADIC MARBLE HEAD
EARLY SPEDOS VARIETY, EARLY CYCLADIC II, CIRCA 2600-2500 B.C.
From a large reclining figure, with a thick neck, the lyre-shaped head with a rounded chin and broad cheeks, the long triangular nose well centered, the convex face with a high sloping forehead tapering toward the top and terminating in a sharp-edged flat oval, the ears modelled in relief and indented at their centers, with traces of pigment “ghosts” for the eyes
5 in. (12.7 cm.) high
Estimate: $150,000-250,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $400,000 ($485,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.
Provenance
with Uraeus, Paris, prior to 1980.

From the lot notes:

Cycladic figures with their ears carved in relief are comparatively rare. The earliest occurrence can be found on some Plastiras figures and some precanonical figures of circa 2800-2700 B.C., such as the example from the Menil Collection, Houston, no. 19 in P. Getz-Preziosi, Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections. In the following centuries ears are mainly found on large-scale figures, quite frequently with the right ear noticeably lower than the left, as on the head presented here.

Lot 64. A CYCLADIC MARBLE RECLINING FEMALE FIGURE  EARLY SPEDOS VARIETY, EARLY CYCLADIC II, CIRCA 2600-2500 B.C.  The lyre-shaped head with a slender, well-centered nose, the neck elongated, the shoulders sloping, with small breasts, the arms folded right below left, the inguinal lines of the incised pubic triangle bisected by the upper end of the deep cleft which divides the legs, denoting the genitalia, the spine delineated by a shallow groove, the feet angled down, the toes articulated 10 in. (25.4 cm.) high Estimate: $200,000-300,000. Provenance with N. Koutoulakis, Paris, 1976.

Lot 64. A CYCLADIC MARBLE RECLINING FEMALE FIGURE
EARLY SPEDOS VARIETY, EARLY CYCLADIC II, CIRCA 2600-2500 B.C.
The lyre-shaped head with a slender, well-centered nose, the neck elongated, the shoulders sloping, with small breasts, the arms folded right below left, the inguinal lines of the incised pubic triangle bisected by the upper end of the deep cleft which divides the legs, denoting the genitalia, the spine delineated by a shallow groove, the feet angled down, the toes articulated
10 in. (25.4 cm.) high
Estimate: $200,000-300,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $360,000 ($437,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Provenance
with N. Koutoulakis, Paris, 1976.

From the catalogue:

The folded-arm female figure from the Bronze Age Cyclades is one of the most iconic sculptural types to have survived from antiquity. The schematic treatment of the human body, where the human form was reduced to its barest essentials, was brilliantly conceived by these unknown sculptors of the 3rd millennium B.C. Most excavated examples come from graves, but only comparatively few graves have yielded such figures, indicating the high status of their original owners. It is not known what meaning these marble figures had in antiquity or even if they ever served a function prior to their entombment.

Lot 69. A MINOAN POTTERY JAR  LATE MINOAN III, CIRCA 1400-1300 B.C.  Of globular form tapering to the outsplayed foot, with a short cylindrical neck and overhanging disk rim, with three vertical loop handles on the shoulders, the body with a series of horizontal bands, the handle zone with sections of nesting chevrons graduated in size, the handles each encircled by a ring, chevron and lines on the mouth 16¾ in. (42.5 cm.) high  Estimate: $20,000-30,000. Provenance Antiquities, Sotheby's, London, 10 July 1990, lot 250.

Lot 69. A MINOAN POTTERY JAR
LATE MINOAN III, CIRCA 1400-1300 B.C.
Of globular form tapering to the outsplayed foot, with a short cylindrical neck and overhanging disk rim, with three vertical loop handles on the shoulders, the body with a series of horizontal bands, the handle zone with sections of nesting chevrons graduated in size, the handles each encircled by a ring, chevron and lines on the mouth
16¾ in. (42.5 cm.) high
Estimate: $20,000-30,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $20,000 ($25,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Provenance
Antiquities, Sotheby’s, London, 10 July 1990, lot 250.

Lot 92. A THRACIAN PARCEL GILT SILVER PHIALE MESOMPHALOS  CLASSICAL PERIOD, CIRCA 4TH CENTURY B.C.  Conical in form on a flat ring base, the thin rim horizontal, the omphalos edged with short lanceolate petals, the sloping walls with three animal and monster combat groups in repoussé, including a lion savaging a boar, a winged griffin attacking a goat, and a lion mauling a stag, a single panther looking on, on a groundline of dotted triangles, preserving extensive gilding 6 9/16 in. (16.6 cm.) diameter Estimate: $60,000-90,000. Click on image to enlarge. Provenance with Jean-Phillipe Mariaud de Serres, Paris. with Mr. S., Zurich, acquired from the above in 1982.

Lot 92. A THRACIAN PARCEL GILT SILVER PHIALE MESOMPHALOS
CLASSICAL PERIOD, CIRCA 4TH CENTURY B.C.
Conical in form on a flat ring base, the thin rim horizontal, the omphalos edged with short lanceolate petals, the sloping walls with three animal and monster combat groups in repoussé, including a lion savaging a boar, a winged griffin attacking a goat, and a lion mauling a stag, a single panther looking on, on a groundline of dotted triangles, preserving extensive gilding
6 9/16 in. (16.6 cm.) diameter
Estimate: $60,000-90,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $60,000 ($75,000 with the buyer’s premium)
Click on image to enlarge.
Provenance
with Jean-Phillipe Mariaud de Serres, Paris.
with Mr. S., Zurich, acquired from the above in 1982.

Lot 109. A ROMAN MARBLE JANIFORM HERM BUST  CIRCA 1ST CENTURY B.C.-1ST CENTURY A.D.  Archaistic in style, both depicting Hermes, one older, the other youthful, both with deeply-set heavy-lidded eyes and long hair bound in a fillet, the strands radiating from the crown and terminating in three rows of snail-curls above the forehead, with thick tendrils falling from behind the ears, along the neck and forward over the shoulders, the older with a full spade-shaped beard of wavy locks and a long downturned mustache framing full lips pressed together 13 in. (33 cm.) high  Estimate: $100,000-150,000. Click on image to enlarge. Provenance with Seibu Department Store, Tokyo, 1979 (Jean-Loup Despras, Hellénisme Gréce Rome et Gandhara, no. 5). Dr. Akira Hirabayashi, Tokyo, acquired from the above in 1979.

Lot 109. A ROMAN MARBLE JANIFORM HERM BUST
CIRCA 1ST CENTURY B.C.-1ST CENTURY A.D.
Archaistic in style, both depicting Hermes, one older, the other youthful, both with deeply-set heavy-lidded eyes and long hair bound in a fillet, the strands radiating from the crown and terminating in three rows of snail-curls above the forehead, with thick tendrils falling from behind the ears, along the neck and forward over the shoulders, the older with a full spade-shaped beard of wavy locks and a long downturned mustache framing full lips pressed together
13 in. (33 cm.) high
Estimate: $100,000-150,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $80,000 ($100,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.
Provenance
with Seibu Department Store, Tokyo, 1979 (Jean-Loup Despras, Hellénisme Gréce Rome et Gandhara, no. 5).
Dr. Akira Hirabayashi, Tokyo, acquired from the above in 1979.

From the lot notes:

The older Hermes on this janiform bust is based on the now-lost statue by the Greek sculptor Alkamenes, known as the Hermes Propylaios, which was set up at the entrance to the Athenian Acropolis. It was sculpted in the archaistic style, using deliberately old-fashioned features, such as the snail-curls, in order to give the statue the sanctity associated with that of a much older work of art. The type was frequently copied in Hellenistic and Roman times. That the original can be assigned to Alkamenes is confirmed from the shaft of a copy from the 2nd century B.C., excavated at Pergamon, which carries an inscription attributing the work to him (see p. 457 in R. Grüssinger, V. Kästner and A. Scholl,Pergamon, Panorama der antiken Metropole).

Lot 109. Detail.

Lot 109. Detail.

Lot 114. A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR AUGUSTUS  CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.-EARLY 1ST CENTURY A.D.  Over-lifesized, depicted with finely-modelled features, his oval face with strong cheekbones, the fleshy bow-shaped mouth with the lips pressed together, dimpled at the corners, the philtrum indicated, the naso-labial folds subtly portrayed, his almond-shaped convex eyes unarticulated and slightly recessed, two small diagonal lines extending above the bridge of his nose accentuating his knitted brow, a single shallow crease across the broad forehead, the layered hair composed of a mass of short comma-shaped locks, with the three characteristic locks at the center of his forehead, two parted at the center and one to his right, a single lock curving forward before each ear 12½ in. (31.8 cm.) high  Estimate: $200,000-250,000. Click on image to enlarge. Provenance Enrico Serranti and Giovanna LoMoro, New York and New Jersey, acquired in 1981. with Fortuna Fine Arts, New York, 1999. Antiquities, Christie's, New York, 8 June 2004, lot 57.

Lot 114. A ROMAN MARBLE PORTRAIT HEAD OF THE EMPEROR AUGUSTUS
CIRCA LATE 1ST CENTURY B.C.-EARLY 1ST CENTURY A.D.
Over-lifesized, depicted with finely-modelled features, his oval face with strong cheekbones, the fleshy bow-shaped mouth with the lips pressed together, dimpled at the corners, the philtrum indicated, the naso-labial folds subtly portrayed, his almond-shaped convex eyes unarticulated and slightly recessed, two small diagonal lines extending above the bridge of his nose accentuating his knitted brow, a single shallow crease across the broad forehead, the layered hair composed of a mass of short comma-shaped locks, with the three characteristic locks at the center of his forehead, two parted at the center and one to his right, a single lock curving forward before each ear
12½ in. (31.8 cm.) high
Estimate: $200,000-250,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $170,000 and it failed to sell.
Click on image to enlarge.
Provenance
Enrico Serranti and Giovanna LoMoro, New York and New Jersey, acquired in 1981.
with Fortuna Fine Arts, New York, 1999.
Antiquities, Christie’s, New York, 8 June 2004, lot 57.

From the catalogue:

Augustus was portrayed with youthful features throughout his reign, even toward the end of his illustrious seventy-six years. As D.E.E. Kleiner explains (p. 62 in Roman Sculpture), “In life, Augustus grew old, but in his portraits he never aged. … The portraiture of Augustus is political portraiture that is comprised of calculated imperial images rather than likenesses of the individual.”

The three comma-shaped locks parted at the center of Augustus’ forehead, such as we have here, are characteristic of the Primaporta portrait type, recognized on the famous example found at the villa of his wife Livia at Primaporta, now in the Vatican Museums. Similar, too, are the furrowed and knitted brow on the present example. The Emperor is presented as a powerful and determined military man. For a discussion on the varying portrait types of Augustus see pp. 61-69 in Kleiner, op. cit.

Lot 121. A ROMAN MARBLE SATYR TEASING A PANTHER  CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.  The youthful satyr stepping forward on the tips of his toes, his left leg advanced, depicted nude but for a nebris worn diagonally across his torso and over his left shoulder, one hoof at his shoulder, another descending on his left thigh, the goat's head in profile on his torso, with a muscular attenuated body, his right arm originally raised, his left lowered, pulling the panther's tail, its hind quarters raised into the air, its head turned up towards its tormentor with a snarling open mouth, a tree trunk in between them as the support, the satyr's head turned towards the panther, with equine ears and budding horns, his wavy hair bound in a diadem, the locks deeply drilled, his brow furrowed, the unarticulated eyes with thick lids and angled brows, his full lips parted, revealing teeth, all on an integral plinth 42 9/16 in. (108 cm.) high  Estimate: $200,000-300,000. Provenance Private Collection, prior to 1972. Ophiuchus Collection, New York, 1982. with Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch, 2010 (Antiquities from the Ophiuchus Collection, no. 11).

Lot 121. A ROMAN MARBLE SATYR TEASING A PANTHER
CIRCA 2ND CENTURY A.D.
The youthful satyr stepping forward on the tips of his toes, his left leg advanced, depicted nude but for a nebris worn diagonally across his torso and over his left shoulder, one hoof at his shoulder, another descending on his left thigh, the goat’s head in profile on his torso, with a muscular attenuated body, his right arm originally raised, his left lowered, pulling the panther’s tail, its hind quarters raised into the air, its head turned up towards its tormentor with a snarling open mouth, a tree trunk in between them as the support, the satyr’s head turned towards the panther, with equine ears and budding horns, his wavy hair bound in a diadem, the locks deeply drilled, his brow furrowed, the unarticulated eyes with thick lids and angled brows, his full lips parted, revealing teeth, all on an integral plinth
42 9/16 in. (108 cm.) high
Estimate: $200,000-300,000. Bidding on this lot stopped at $170,000 and it failed to sell.
Provenance
Private Collection, prior to 1972.
Ophiuchus Collection, New York, 1982.
with Oliver Forge and Brendan Lynch, 2010 (Antiquities from the Ophiuchus Collection, no. 11).

From the catalogue:

Satyrs are frequently paired with panthers in Greek and Roman art, but only on occasion, as here, do they tease the feline. The pose of the Ophiuchus satyr is close to an example in the Villa Albani, Rome, where the satyr dangles a cluster of grapes above the frustrated panther. In both the satyr is raised up onto his toes, but the nebris of the Villa Albani satyr is worn over the right shoulder and is overflowing with grapes (see fig. 568 in M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age). For a satyr who likewise lifts the panther’s hind quarters off the ground by its tail see the example in the Musée Cinquantenaire, Brussels (fig. 37 in D. Brinkerhoff, A Collection of Sculpture in Classical and Early Christian Antioch). The Brussels satyr wears his nebris in similar fashion and holds a lagabolon in his raised right hand; however his feet are flat to the ground contrary to the Ophiuchus and Villa Albani examples, although this may be the result of later restoration. All are Roman in date, but must be based on a Hellenistic prototype.

Lot 129. A LATE ROMAN MARBLE MOSAIC PANEL  CIRCA 4TH-5TH CENTURY A.D.  The multicolored composition on a cream ground, preserving a dog charging to the left, wearing a pink collar, pushing off his hind legs with the forelegs extended, his ears erect and curving forward, his long thin tail projecting behind, a plant with a pink flower below, additional foliage behind, the hind paws of a second animal preserved to the left 64 in. (162.6 cm.) x 30¼ in. (76.8 cm.)  Estimate: $8,000-12,000. Click on image to enlarge. Provenance with Galerie G. Maspero, Paris, 1989.

Lot 129. A LATE ROMAN MARBLE MOSAIC PANEL
CIRCA 4TH-5TH CENTURY A.D.
The multicolored composition on a cream ground, preserving a dog charging to the left, wearing a pink collar, pushing off his hind legs with the forelegs extended, his ears erect and curving forward, his long thin tail projecting behind, a plant with a pink flower below, additional foliage behind, the hind paws of a second animal preserved to the left
64 in. (162.6 cm.) x 30¼ in. (76.8 cm.)
Estimate: $8,000-12,000. This lot sold for a hammer price of $16,000 ($20,000 with the buyer’s premium).
Click on image to enlarge.
Provenance
with Galerie G. Maspero, Paris, 1989.

 

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