ANCIENT CYCLADIC HEAD OF AN "IDOL"
Late Spedos Variety, Early Cycladic II, ca. 2500-2400 B.C.
H: 9.6 cm (3.8 in)
This lyre-shaped head gives an explicit example of the design and style of the Bronze Age Greek sculpture. Sculpted almost as an abstract form, with features essentially omitted, the piece is fully recognizable as a human head by a slightly rounded chin and a prominent arching nose. The piece preserved the flaring neck and is a fragment of the entire figure whose composition is usually described as reclining.
Similar figures constitute the group of Cycladic “idols” which depict a nude female standing upright, with legs slightly bent, arms clasped on the belly, and the head tilted backwards. This piece belongs to the so-called Late “Spedos” variety, which represents the highest level of prehistoric Cycladic sculpture towards the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C..
Nowadays, prehistoric Cycladic art is famous mostly for these statuettes, whose design is both simple and attractive. Despite the strong beauty and seductive power they convey to the modern artistic taste, these figurines still keep many secrets, since their real purpose remains unknown. These “idols” (which come almost exclusively from necropolises, when the location of their discovery is known) have been successively seen as concubines for the deceased, mourners, substitutes for human sacrifices, nurses for the deceased, representations of revered ancestors, toys to be taken to the afterlife, or figures enabling or helping the transition to the afterlife, etc.; other scholars connect them with the Great Mother, a goddess of procreation and fertility, worshiped from the Neolithic in the Near East, in Anatolia and in Central Europe.
Behind their remarkable unity of style, these statuettes probably hide various purposes that cannot be clearly understood today. According to P. Getz-Gentle, recent studies on their polychrome decoration allow us to attribute to them a more active role than previously thought: these figures would probably have embodied a protective being, definitely feminine and maternal (related to a sort of a patron saint), who commanded natural phenomena and events that were most often inexplicable to the ancients: the cycle of life, the astronomical phenomena, the seasonal cycle and the fertility of the land, the sea, etc. Other scholars think, on comparing the role played by some divine representations in other civilizations that these Cycladic statuettes would have played an intermediary role between the believer/owner of the “idol” and the deity, like a kind of medium allowing, at certain stages of life, humans to enter into contact with a superior being.
C. Dikran Kelekian Ancient Arts, New York; G.L. collection, New York, October 22, 1965, with original invoice.
ANCIENT CENTRAL EUROPEAN BRONZE AGE ARMLET
Central Europe, Bronze Age, ca. 1300 B.C.
H: 29.3 cm (11.5 in)
The pure geometric motif is combined in this piece with high precision of modeling. The direct use of such work is not known; it was described as shoulder-guard, wrist-guard, or arm-guard. This arm-guard was designed for the left arm and, most probably, made a pair with the right one. Executed by repeated hammering with annealing, the thick bronze wire is square in cross-section. The concentric spiral forms a perfectly discoid shape which terminates in central plate (the latter was made separately and affixed at the back); it is thought that the spirals served to deflect the blow of a sword. The spiral finials of fibulae or wire-spirals as bracelets, made of bronze or gold, wire were popular designs in the jewelry of the European Bronze age. This arm-guard employs the same design on a monumental scale; the piece is considerably heavy but the spiral preserves a complete flexibility.
A more reasonable hypothesis would be that such objects had a ceremonial and decorative purpose, as “parade weapons”, or that they were used exclusively in the funerary sphere. At a time when bronze was still rather rare and hard to work, owning a piece such as this one, with its massive weight and size, would have elevated the social status of its owner: only the noblemen, or the princes, would have been able to commission such extraordinary armbands.
Complete, dark green patina.
Ex- K.J. Hewitt collection, UK, late 1960’s;
Ex- US private collection, acquired on the London art market, November 2, 1994
HÄNSEL A., B., Gaben an die Götter, Schätze der Bronzezeit Europas, Berlin, 1997, p. 184.
In Pursuit of the Absolute Art of the Ancient World: From the George Ortiz Collection, Berne, 1994, no. 71.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN HEAD OF THE GODDESS BASTET
Egyptian, Third Intermediate Period, ca. 1070-712 B.C.
Bronze and gold
H: 7.0 cm (2.7 in)
In ancient Egypt, the domestic cat embodied the qualities of the goddess Bastet, who was associated with female sexuality and fertility and often depicted surrounded by a litter of kittens. Bastet, whose cult seems to have emerged as early as the Second Dynasty, was closely linked to the kingship by the Old Kingdom, acting as the royal nurse in the Pyramid Texts. Despite her generally benevolent nature, Bastet revealed her more feral and aggressive traits in her role as the daughter of the sun god, Re, in which she was charged with killing his nemesis, the serpent Apophis.
At the end of the second millennium BC, the large-scale donation of ex-votos by private individuals became increasingly popular within the cults of certain deities, peaking during the Ptolemaic Period. These votives included bronze statuettes and mummified sacred animals. A variety of creatures, including cats, were bred, mummified, and presented as offerings in temples before being interred in special catacombs. The mummies were usually buried in two types of coffins: either a narrow box that held a figure of the animal on the lid or a container in the shape of the animal itself.
The size of this superlative head suggests that it most likely came from the latter type of coffin or a votive figure, which would have depicted a cat seated upright with its front paws together and its tail curled around its body. The broad, elegantly modeled face has an incised mouth and whiskers, while engraved pupils, carefully detailed eyelids, and inner canthi distinguish the eyes. The tall ears turn slightly forward, giving an appearance of alert attention. A deep groove runs down the outer edge of each ear, with incised parallel lines along the inner edge representing fine hairs. A gold earring adorns the proper left ear.
During the Late and Ptolemaic periods, bronze was an especially popular medium for votive figures such as this cat, due to the ease with which they could be mass produced. Throughout Egyptian history, bronze figures were assembled from separately manufactured components. These elements were usually hollow-cast using wax models. Single-piece castings became increasingly common after the Third Intermediate Period due to the preference for simpler forms and the development of more fluid alloys.
Complete, in excellent condition, minor chips (lower neck, left ear especially). A gold earring adorns the left ear.
Ex- Mr. & Mrs. Leo S. Bing collection, USA, collected in the 1920’s -1940’s;
Sotheby’s New York, 14 December 1994, lot 17.
Sotheby’s New York, 14 December 1994, lot 17;
Art of the two Lands, Egypt from 4000 B.C. to 1000 A.D., New York, 2006, pp. 118-119, 200, no. 39.
GUICHARD H., ed., Des animaux et des pharaons. Le règne animal dans l’Égypte ancienne, Lens, 2014, pp. 294 ff.
LETELLIER B et al., Les animaux dans l’Egypte ancienne, Lyon, 1977, pp. 43 ff.
PAGE-GASSER M., WIESE A.B., Egypte. Moments d’éternité. Art égyptien dans les collection privées, Suisse, Mainz/Rhine, 1997, pp. 276-277.
SCOTT N. E., The Cat of Bastet, in Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum of Art 17, 2, 1958, p. 3.
WILKINSON R. H., The Complete Gods and Goddesses of Ancient Egypt, London, 2003, pp. 177-178.
ANCIENT ROMAN HEAD OF A GODDESS OR QUEEN
Roman, 2nd century A.D.
H: 30.4 cm (11.96 in)
At the first glance, this beautiful female head with a diadem appears to be the head of a goddess represented in the Archaistic style, i.e. imitating the Greek Archaic (ancient) style; such an attribution would be based on the shape of the corkscrew curls. The most typical arrangement of the hairstyle of an Archaistic goddess, however, is different and almost always has long hair parted in the middle of the head and set in several long stiff spiral locks which are put symmetrically on the sides at the shoulders; in addition, the flaps of curving locks hang down in front of each ear.
Although two similar thick corkscrew locks are prominently seen at the temples of this head, their shape looking like the flaps, and the row of shorter corkscrew curls form the lower part of the hairstyle, the rest of the hairstyle is unalike. It consists of the tresses of hair rolled around the top of the head in a kind of a turban which is typical for the hairstyle of the Roman ladies of the Trajan-Hadrian period (the beginning – first third of the 2nd century A.D.). One finds a similar pattern of triangular segments of the tresses in the hairstyle of the time, and also in the portraits of the empress Sabina, wife of Hadrian.
This particular feature helps to date the marble head quite precisely, but leaving the question of the represented person open (in the case of a complete figure, a special garment or additional attribute could help with the identification). The diadem indicates either goddess or queen, as well as the possibility remains for an idealized individual presented in the guise of a goddess or queen.
The stiff spiral locks are equally typical for the hairstyle of the Egyptian goddesses such as Isis or Hathor in the representations of the Hellenistic period. Their iconography was adopted for the images of the Ptolemaic queens. The combination of the vertical rows above the forehead (the stylized short spiral locks), the larger side corkscrews and the diadem in this head resemble the look of the Ptolemaic princess Cleopatra, daughter of Ptolemy VI and Cleopatra II, known in history as Cleopatra Thea (the Goddess). Her images are testified in the numismatic material (see ill.). She became the Seleucid queen, was wife of three Seleucid kings and the mother of three other. A remarkable woman, she even ruled on her own, an unprecedented case in the history of the Seleucid empire. She was great aunt of Cleopatra VII who later announced herself as the second Cleopatra Thea. The portraits of the Hellenistic rulers remained popular in the Roman period, they adorned the portrait galleries and libraries of the educated elite, reminding of the grandeur of their life.
Complete; surface weathered and cleaned; a few pits and chips in places; rusty stains; the tip of the nose is broken off.
Ex- Karl Wittgenstein (1847-1913) private collection, Vienna, Austria; thence by descent to his daughter, Margaret Wittgenstein-Stonborough (1882-1958); thence by descent.
WALKER S., HIGGS P., eds, Cleopatra of Egypt: From History to Myth, London, 2001, p. 87, nos. 92-94.
BURSTEIN S.M., The Reign of Cleopatra, Norman, 2007, pp. 78-79.
ANCIENT BYZANTINE RITUAL DISH
WITH SAINT PETER, SAINT PAUL AND CHRIST
Byzantine, 5th –7th or 9th -10th
H: 3.7cm - W: 2.5cm (1.46 in - 0.98 in)
This garnet, sculpted in the shape of a shallow convex dish, is extraordinary both by its size and the purity of the stone. It is carefully and finely engraved on both sides. A large cross with long arms covers most of the exterior surface. The extremities of the Cross’ arms worked as two commas circling a large pearl. The letters IC XC (Iesos Chrestos) are engraved on either side of the Cross. The standing figures of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, draped in a mantle, are acclaiming on either side of the Cross. Peter carries a long shafted cross, whilst Paul is recognizable ichnographically: an ascetic man, with a long beard and a bold skull.
The interior of the vessel is occupied by a figure of Christ, standing on a scabellum (a small stool) drawn in perspective, and holding a book in his left hand. He wears a long tunic and a draped mantle on his shoulders. The right arm is covered by the mantle, thus preventing the familiar benediction gesture. The Christ is bearded and his long hair falls down upon his neck. A cross shaped halo surrounds his head.
A clever visual effect was devised by the artist with the interior side directed towards the light, and Christ appearing on the cross on the exterior. However, this visual effect is not active in the reverse; indeed, when looking through the interior, the cross is simply not visible behind Christ.
Stylistically, this figure of Christ can be assimilated to several other examples in glyptic works from the 9th and 10th century, such as the so-called ‘Anne’ double faced intaglio, at the Cabinet des Médailles, in Paris (Babelon 338). Indeed, the image of Christ is represented in the same way, in the same attitude, but surrounded by Deesis (the Virgin and John the Baptist). Yet, another similar standing figure of Christ is also attested on an amethyst cameo from the Dumbarton Oaks collection (inv. 53.7).
Nonetheless, one should not discard an earlier dating for this work of art, notably due to the subject matter on the exterior side of the vessel (the acclamation of the Cross by Peter and Paul). It is in fact rare to encounter it in 10th century Byzantine iconography. However, it is featured on a magnificent agate intaglio from the Wavel collection (Krakow, Poland, inv. IX 2607), which dates from the 5th- 7th century A.D. This is one of the finest and best kept intaglios from this period; the bust of Christ tops a large cross surrounded by a Greek inscription which reads: “Emmanuel”. Saint Peter and Saint Paul stand on either side acclaiming the Cross.
The usage of such stone in this peculiar shape is also quite unique. A narrow ridge on the exterior rim of the vessel is proof that a second element could have been fitted onto the dish, thus enabling it to close, and creating a hermetically sealed space on the inside.
The shape, the iconography of the piece, as well the usage of the garnet all point to a very particular and rare vessel. It is probably a dish that contained the holy-chrism (myron in the Oriental Church). This holy oil is used to mark the believers during Baptism, Confirmation (Unction in the East) and the ordination of Priests and Bishops. It is composed of pure olive oil, to which balsam (a substance extracted from a tree in Judea and Arabia) is added.
Entirely preserved; chips on the interior border to the left of Christ.
Formerly, Simkovic collection, collected in the 1970’s.
DURAND J. et al., Byzance, l’art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises, Paris, 1992, n° 184.
SPIER J., Late Antique and Early Christian Gems, Wiesbaden, 2007, nos. 575, 576.
GRIGG R., The Cross and Bust Image: some tests of a recent explanation, in Byzantinische Zeitschrift 72, 1979.
ANCIENT SOUTH ARABIAN ABSTRACT HEAD
South Arabian, 1st century B.C. – 1st century A.D.
H: 21.0 cm (H: 8.26 in)
The representation of a human face is worked as a plaque, with the back left unworked; it was intended to be placed into a niche hollowed in the stela. The typical U-shaped face includes the long neck, but not the ears or hair. In some cases, the insertion was filled with plaster on which the ears and hair were traced. The square face is dominated by the large, almond-shaped eyes placed directly under the arched eyebrows which meet the bridge of the long and protruding nose. It is slightly asymmetrical, the lower proper left half is wider that the right one, which gives a more individual feature to the highly schematic manner of the design. The cheeks are plastically modeled. A very small mouth carved in low relief is contrasting to the sharp shape of the long nose. As no beard or mustaches are indicated, the rounded lips of the small mouth and a very delicate and smooth outline of the chin may suggest that this is a female representation.
The great variety of human representations, masculine and feminine, in South Arabian art is remarkable; aside from statuettes, both seated and standing, one finds stelae in low and high relief and heads with long necks mounted on a base. Their exact significance is unknown. The fact that the great majority of these objects come from necropoleis and the frequent, but by no means obligatory, presence of inscriptions on their bases clearly indicate that they were portraits of the deceased, placed near the tomb. The inscriptions, in the South Arabian script, always document the name of the person represented and that of the clan that he/she belonged to. Among the statues found, there have also been portraits of kings, recognizable thanks to the inscriptions.
The art of South Arabia was produced as early as the 8th century B.C. by a number of ancient kingdoms located in the area of modern-day Yemen. Figurative and decorative art of the region includes indigenous types and styles that are, in earlier times, influenced by the arts of Egypt or Mesopotamia, and later by Hellenistic Greece and Rome. South Arabian art is well-known not only for its distinctive statues of human figures but sculptures of animals such as bulls, antelopes and ibexes. These were carved both free-standing and in relief, and usually made of alabaster or limestone. Ancient civilizations may have associated alabaster, a translucent and cream-colored stone, with sunlight. The ancient Arabian kingdoms flourished until the 5th century A.D. as a result of agricultural wealth and trade of precious commodities, most importantly frankincense and myrrh, with the civilizations of Egypt, the Near East, and the Hellenistic and Roman empires. Other commercial goods, such as spices and fragrances, were produced in South Arabia, and the region played a key role in the trade of products from Africa, the Persian Gulf, and India.
Complete; no restoration; natural cracking of alabaster; old scratches; soil deposits in places.
Ex- collection of the artist Gérard Drouillet (1946-2011), Eygalières, South of France, acquired ca. 1967;
Ex- Mrs. B. private collection, Geneva, Switzerland.
ALI IBRAHIM AL-GHABBAN et al., eds., Roads to Arabia, archaeology and history of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Paris, 2010, p. 322, nos. 132-133.
CLEVELAND R.L., An Ancient South Arabian Necropolis, Objects from the Second Campaign (1951) in the Timna’ Cemetery, Baltimore, 1965.
DE MAIGRET A., Arabia Felix: un viaggio nell’archeologia dello Yemen, 1996.
Faces of Ancient Arabia, The Giraud and Carolyn Foster Collection of South Arabian Art, Baltimore, 2008,
pp. 41-67; 102-113.
Queen of Sheba, Treasures from Ancient Yemen, London, 2002, pp. 196, 198-199, nos. 272, 277-278.
Yémen, au pays de la reine de Saba, Paris, 1997, pp. 150-173.
ANCIENT ROMAN BUST OF A FLAVIAN COMMANDER
Roman, late 1st century B.C.
H: 40 cm (15.74 in)
This portrait of a Roman man is most impressive for the appearance of sculptural richness which characterizes the Roman portraiture of the Flavian period, and notably the time of the emperor Titus (79-81 A.D.) and his younger brother and successor Domitian (81-96 A.D.). The man’s shoulders are wrapped in a cloak, paludamentum, fastened by a circular clasp, fibula, at the right side. The marble fibula is incised with lines which are radiating from a small circle, probably reflecting the decoration of an originally enameled bronze or gold disk. The cloak with fibula often seen on the portraits of emperors was also worn by Roman military commanders. It well could be that the portraited person was an important Roman of high military rank. One can not miss the expression of self-assurance and dignity that accompany the prominently carved features and carefully arranged curly hair, which were all appropriate for the portarits of the emperors and court members.
The realistic rendering of his individual traits is quite remarkable. The large, life-size head represents a man who is no longer young as many deep forrows crossing his forehead and face specify; however, the full shapes and determined look would indicate him as a healthy and energetic person. His face has a pronounced dimpled chin, pressed lips flanked by deep folds, knobby nose, small and closely-set eyes under the heavy lids, a wart next to his right eye, a knitted and furrow brow and the ears positioned differently - the right one is seen protruding while the left is pressed. This natural asymmetry brings liveliness to the face; the man’s straightforward and demanding gaze attracts the viewer.
The thick eyebrows are detailed by incision lines, same is characteristic for the hair locks with additional drilling (also drilled are the eyes’ inner canti). The short hair is brushed forward from the top of the head, the strands above the forehead and temples are much longer creating a crown of curly locks; such a male hair style is characteristic for the late Flavian period and found in the portraits of both the emperors Titus and Domitian, even surpassing them in sculptural plasticity.
Another unique quality of this portrait is the original bust’s shape which is not often entirely preserved among ancient portraits. It was designed as a head with partially shaped shoulders and chest set on a low circular base. The composition of the head and the bust are slightly asymmetrical: the axis is shifted off the base’s center, and the base looks small in relation to the upper portion. Yet, the head is turned to its right thus balancing the masses of stone on the sides. Another interesting feature is revealed in the modeling of the bust’s back: the curving lines of the cloak’s folds continuing from the front over the left shoulder, as well as the groove of the upper edge of the base, are left unfinished behind leaving the entire surface of the back flat and roughly chiseled. This shows that the bust was made to be installed against the wall, most probably inside a niche, judging by the very low socle. The nape is also flat; however, the toolmarks indicate that this area was once developed: the unavailable part from the original block of marble was carved separately and attached to the surface by inserted iron pins (piecing was a regular practice in the Greek and Roman technique of stone carving). Considering the profile of the back side, one can assume that the bust would have been installed in a concave, shell-shaped niche. Such kinds of niches are known being set into the wall between relief panels with garlands and pilasters in important Roman monumental structures dedicated to private worship of family ancestors.
Complete except for the separately carved nape which is missing; the latter was originally attached with the help of three irons pins, still in place and corroded. Surface is weathered and has some encrustation and root marks. A few fractures, on top of the head, another crossing the right cheek and ear. A small dent on the left cheek; a chip on the left ear. A piece of the cloak and base at the lower front was broken and mended.
Ex- Plaza Art Galleries, Inc., New York, prior 1976;
Ex- Piero Tozzi Gallery, New York, acquired in 1976.
Sotheby's, New York, European Works of Art, January 12th-15th, 1991, no. 48, illus.
On Flavian Period portraits, see:
COMSTOCK M.B., VERMEULE C.C., Sculpture in Stone, The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1976, pp. 216-218, nos. 344-346.
JOHANSEN F., Catalogue Roman Portraits II, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhague, 1995, pp. 88-91, nos. 31-32.
KERSAUSON K. de, Musée du Louvre, Catalogue des portraits romains: Tome II, De l’année de la guerre civile (68-69 après J.-C.) à la fin de l’Empire, Paris, 1996, pp. 62-65, nos. 22-23.
ANCIENT THESSALIAN "IDOL"
Greek, (Thessaly), ca. 6th millennium B.C.
H: 15.2 cm (H: 6 in)
Figurines of sitting, standing or reclining females with over-exaggerated, voluminous shapes (especially of buttocks, breasts, and bellies) are characteristic for the Neolithic culture and found in many areas of the Near East, the greater Mediterranean area, and also in Eastern, Central and Western Europe. They vary greatly in style (with a more naturalistic or schematic approach in modeling the body, head and facial features) and material: commonly executed in baked clay, they can also be of white or grey marble, semi-translucent alabaster, or colored stones.
Both the sophistication and distinctive level of abstraction define this idol as exceptional. Its relatively large size, skillfully designed composition, harmonious proportions, and beauty of its rounded shapes are all a testament to the quality of the craftsmanship. The entire composition is built as a contrast of the upper and lower parts. The upper part has rather schematic and flattened volumes (head/neck, shoulders/arms, torso) which are positioned symmetrically and almost similar in size. The arms with spread rectangular shoulders are bent at a right angle so that the forearms create an exact parallel. The forearms are narrowing to a point that may suggest the hands of the idol which otherwise are not shaped individually. The unique shape of the forearms/hands was probably necessary for the accentuation of a gesture which points to the breasts, clearly positioned and seen as two small semi-spherical knobs (this gesture is in a great contrast to the so-called gesture of modesty in later Greek and Roman figures of the nude Aphrodite).
The tapering narrow torso echoes the combined shape of the neck/head. The manner of the ancient sculptor is based on the minimalistic approach for the anatomical detailing. The eyes were shaped by two oblique cuts to pre-baked clay. The prominently sculptured nose dominates the face. The hair, ears, and mouth are not indicated at all. Interestingly, the same modeling is found in both soft clay and hard marble figurines, so the lack of details as a characteristic was not due to the difficulties and limitations of sculptor’s tools and materials, but was a deliberate choice.
The lower part of the “idol” is distinguished by corpulent forms of hips, buttocks, and thighs with significantly diminished lower legs and omitted feet. Again, the shape unifies the parts and creates exaggerated and purely abstract forms, to which are not lacking a sense of sexual beauty (noticeable is the line separating the left and right legs which starts at the top of the pubic area and continues to the buttocks).
The “idol” has considerable tactile appeal and was apparently designed to be handled. One does not exclude the opportunity that such figures were manipulated in some way during certain public or private rituals and ceremonies. Similar statuettes, both of stone and clay, were discovered in shrines and houses. It is generally assumed that the steatopygous form relates such figures to the fertility goddess, the Great Mother, whose cult was primary in the religion of the early human civilization. She was considered as Mistress of life and death for human, animal, and vegetation.
Excellent state of preservation; complete except for the damaged tip of the proper left leg; surface weathered and worn; a few cracks, chips and dents, small hole in the back of the proper right leg.
Ex- H.J.B. private collection, Chicago;
Ex- Prominent US private collection, New York, collection assembled 1970s- 1990s.
BAILEY D., Prehistoric Figurines Representation and Corporality in the Neolithic, London, New York, 2005.
BAILEY D. W., The Figurines of Old Europe, in ANTHONY D. W., ed., The Lost World of Old Europe: The Danube Valley, 5000-3500 BC, New York, Princeton, Oxford, 2010, pp. 113-127, p. 229, nos. 18.
COHEN C., La femme des origins: image de la femme dans la préhistoire occidentale, Paris, 2003.
GETZ-GENTILE P., Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture, Madison, 2001, pp. 1-6, p. 173, pl. 1, figs. a1-3.
GIMBUTAS M. et al., Achilleion, A Neolithic Settlement in Thessaly, Greece, Los Angeles, 1989.
LESURE R. G., Interpreting Ancient Figurines: Context, Comparison, and Prehistoric Art, Cambridge, 2011.
LIGABUE G., ROSSI-OSMIDA G., eds., Dea Madre, Milan, 2007.
MINA M., Anthropomorphic Figurines from the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Aegean: Gender Dynamics and Implications of Early Aegean Prehistory, Oxford, 2008.
PAPATHANASSOPOULOS G., ed., Neolithic Culture in Greece, Athens, 1996, p. 293, no. 188; p.
WEINBERS S. S., Anthropomorphic Stone Figurines from Neolithic Greece, in THIMME J., ed., Art and Culture in the Cyclades in the Third Millennium B.C., Chicago, London, 1977, pp. 52-58, 208-218, 415-424, nos. 1-21.
ANCIENT GREEK HEAD OF A LION
Greek, 5th - 4th century B.C.
H: 22.9 cm (9 in)
Classical antiquity was dealing with two major functions of lion’s representations in stone: figures as funerary monuments and heads as waterspouts. The latter is frequent in the fountain house being attached to the wall; water from the pipe gushed from the open mouth of the animal (many representations on the black-figure vases capture that image). Similar heads were employed for the gutters of a building – its protruding concave tongue would have channeled the rainwater down.
Although the cavity below the muzzle indicates the wide open mouth, this piece did not serve as a water spout. The fragment still shows a considerable thickness of the marble in the back, that is why the idea of a statue is more plausible. Funerary statues usually show the animal crouching on his front legs, his head faces the viewer; sometimes the body is seen from the side and the head is turned to confront the viewer. Lions symbolized strength, courage, ferocity - their images, standing or crouching, were highly suitable as tomb guardians. They were placed in pairs at the corners of family grave plots as the monuments of Kerameikos, ancient cemetery of Athens, testify, or, in case of a royal tomb they would line the sides of the alley leading to the entrance of mausoleum or even be placed at the roof level as the reconstructions of the famous Halicarnassus Mausoleum suggest.
Greek sculptor from the Greek mainland could hardly see the real animal, and his knowledge was based on the tradition transmitted by the generations of artists. The features are far from to be naturalistic and they are highly stylized; especially remarkable is almost human expression of raised eyebrows and deep-set eyes. The open mouth shows individually carved teeth. Two rather small and round ears are seen between flamelike tufts going in different directions, the mane consisted of a few distinct rows.
Surface worn; remains of encrustation; a few scratches and chips in places; the tip of the nose and eyebrows are damaged.
Ex- US private collection, acquired in 1989
COMSTOCK M. B., VERMEULE C. C., Sculpture in Stone, The Greek, Roman and Etruscan Collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1976, p. 52 no. 76.
GROSSMAN J. B., Greek Funerary Sculpture: Catalogue of the Collections at the Getty Villa, Los Angeles, 2001, pp.
KOZLOFF A., ed., Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Mainz, 1981, pp. 158-160, nos. 138-139.
VERMEULE C. C., Greek Funerary Animals in American Journal of Archaeology 76, 1972, pp. 49-56.
WEICKERT C., Zu ionischen Löwen in Athenische Mitteilungen 71, 1956, pp. 145-148, figs. 78-79.
ANCIENT GRAECO ROMAN STATUETTE OF A GODDESS
Graeco-Roman, 1st century B.C.
H: 17.5 cm (6.89 in)
This incredibly fine Graeco-Roman bronze statuette of a woman possesses a strength of presence and exudes a sense of regal bearing far beyond what would be considered proportionate to her size. She is fully modeled in the round with great care taken to render the sensuous, softly clinging drapery of her dress, and her beautiful face is modeled after the Classical standards of idealized female beauty.
The figure steps forward with her right foot, showing a bent, well-articulated knee, and supports her weight on her straight back leg. Her shoulders tilt ever so slightly with the motion, and her head is also turned to the right, her posture completely in harmony with her movements.
The female figure represented, probably an image of a goddess used for private devotions, is dressed in a long, flowing, sleeveless chiton over which is draped a himation fastened at the shoulders by two circular fibulae. The falling fabric is expertly executed, allowing the soft curves of her body to show. On the chest especially, the effect of the thin drapery of the cowl neck is wholly convincing, an illusion that reveals the hand of a master sculptor. The amount of detail devoted to this piece is exceptional: the contrast of the subtler, shallow folds with the dramatic relief of the mass of drapery down her back. Even the feet, shown wearing delicately strapped thong sandals with oval studs or medallions decorating the instep, are meticulously cast with well-delineated toes and miniscule toenails.
The goddess’s body is also idealized: slender with long legs, a high chest, and slightly rounded, narrow shoulders with a long, straight neck on top of which she carries her head with noble bearing. Her face is oval shaped with soft, feminine features: high cheekbones, a rounded chin and a small, full-lipped mouth set in the typical “cupid’s bow”. Her pronounced, arched brows frame wide, heavy-lidded, almond-shaped eyes that stare out with an inscrutable, dignified look. The pupils are hollowed out, allowing the play of light and shadow on her face to create a truly arresting gaze.
The low forehead is framed by the elegant and meticulously incised coiffure. The thick, wavy tresses are parted down the middle and held in place by a solid, crescent-shaped crown appliquéd in the front with a central, silvered rosette flanked by two additional rosettes, now lost. The hair in front of the crown is pulled to the sides in long, thick waves that partially cover the ears, the higher degree of relief creating a more volumetric, heavy look than that of the hair at the crown and back of the head, which is also wavy but modeled closer to the skull for a smoother look. The ends of the tresses are pulled into a low, thick chignon at the base of the neck. A small, shallow hole at the crown of the head may have been used to attach a fabric veil, completing this regal portrait of a goddess.
The statuette is in excellent condition, completely intact except for the arms, which are often lost on ancient statuary as they were cast separately. The surface has a rich, hard, smooth patina that fades from dark brown to various shades of light and dark green and gold. The base of the bronze is outfitted with a metal tang for mounting (19th century).
Formerly, Jules Charvet collection (1824-1882), Château du Donjon, Le Pecq, France;
Ex- Julien Gréau collection, acquired between 1866 and 1878, Troyes, France;
Hôtel Drouot, Paris, Collection Julien Gréau. Catalogue des bronzes antiques et des objets d'art du Moyen-âge et de la Renaissance, 1-9 June 1885, no 935
Musée rétrospectif, Palais de l'Industrie, Champs-Elysées, Paris, 1865;
L’Exposition Universelle Internationale, Palais du Trocadéro, Paris, 1 May - 10 November 1878 ;
Hôtel Drouot, Collection Julien Gréau. Catalogue des bronzes antiques et des objets d'art du Moyen-âge et de la Renaissance, Paris, 1-9 June, 1885, no 935.
Palais de l'industrie, Musée rétrospectif, Catalogue, Fascicule 2, Paris, 1865, p. 7, no. 66.
LENORMANT F., Les antiques à l’exposition retrospective des Champs-Élysées, in Gazette des Beaux Arts 20, February 1866, pp. 167 – 186 (illustrated);
LENORMANT F., Books and monuments bearing upon figured representations of Antiquity, in The Contemporary Review XXXIII, London, Sept. 1878, 849.
RAYET O.,L'art grec au Trocadéro, in L'Art Ancien à l'exposition de 1878, Paris 1879, pp. 75-76, illus. p. 70.
DE BEAUMONT E. et al., Exposition universelle de 1878, in Les Beaux-arts et les arts décoratifs 2, Paris, 1879, pp. 70 (illustrated), 75, 77;
Collection Julien Gréau, Catalogue des bronzes antiques et des objets d'art du Moyen-âge et de la Renaissance, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, June 1st - 9th, 1885, no 935, pl. XXVII;
WIESLER F., Archäologische Excurse zu Pausinias, I,24,3I, et I, 27,8, in Nachrichten von der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften und der Goerg-August-Universität, 1886, p. 45.
SITTL K., Archäologie der Kunst, Munich, 1895, p.237, note 18.
REINACH S., Répertoire de la Statuaire Grecque et Romaine 2, Paris, 1898 & 1908, p. 333, no. 1.
Sotheby’s New York, 10 December 2008, Lot 34 (back cover).
In Pursuit of the Absolute Art of the Ancient World: from the George Ortiz Collection, Berne, 1994, no 141.
KOZLOFF A. P. & MITTEN D. G., The God’s Delight: The Human Figure in Classical Bronze, Cleveland Museum of Art, 1988.
REINACH S., Répertoire de la Statuaire Grecque et Romaine 2, Paris, 1898 & 1908, p. 333, no. 1.
RIDGWAY B. S., Fifth Century Styles in Greek Sculpture, Princeton, 1981.
ANCIENT EGYPTIAN BOAT WITH ROWERS
Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, ca. 21st-17th century B.C.
Stuccoed and painted wood
L: 63 cm - H: 40 cm (L: 24.8 in - W: 15.75 in)
The boat is composed of several elements (crew, keel, oars, tiller, etc.) that were made separately, then painted and assembled: it is currently possible that some elements were not placed back in their original location. The various parts of the structure were painted in ocher, brick red, white and black; the figures have tanned skin and dark hair, and wear a white loincloth.
The rounded keel with raised stern was carved from a single block of wood, probably acacia wood like most similar examples. The eight rowers are seated with their backs directed to the bow, their hands on their knees: the oars were fastened to the gunwale (holes) and might have been inserted in the holes that are still visible in the hands of some of the rowers. The other two seated figures would have been co-pilots. The central mast supported the sails, while the other pole arranged vertically to the stern was used to fix the rudder(s). The man standing near the bow, holding an oar, may be the navigation assistant giving the pace to the rowers; the helmsman, who stood at the other end of the boat, next to the tiller, is now lost.
This model, which, unlike many surviving examples, shows a good artistic level, represents a travel boat similar to those which sailed on the Nile river: when traveling north, they would be going with the current, gaining even more speed with the rowers; when the ships were traveling south, they had the wind blowing in their direction and would use the sails.
The presence of such small-sized boats in Egyptian tombs can be traced back to the Middle Kingdom when the trend to replace the wall paintings in the mastabas (Old Kingdom) with models included in the funeral furniture was established: aside from ships, many three-dimensional wood items linked to contemporary artisanal (weaving, carpentry, gardening) or economic activities (bakery, brewery, butchery) were found. Like the painted scenes of the previous periods, these objects were intended to provide the deceased with the necessities for life in the next world: these models of boats, especially the travel boats, were also related to the biography of the owner and highlighted his important actions, which he continued after his death, such as the inspection of his properties, leisure boating or pilgrimages to various shrines.
Excellent condition; slightly faded paint in some areas; minor restorations and breaks (oar, helm, and sail)
Formerly, G. Willoughby collection (1866-1923); Ex- P. Vérité collection, Paris, 1920’s; thence by descent to the C. Vérité collection, France.
BERMAN L. M., BOHAC K. J., Catalogue of Egyptian Art: The Cleveland Museum of Art, Manchester, VA, 1999, pp. 202 ff.
Egypte, Moments d’éternité, Mainz am Rhein, 1997, pp. 96-97.
Reflets du divin, Antiquités pharaoniques et classiques d’une collection privée, Geneva, 2002, pp. 89-91.
REISNER G. A., Models of Ships and Boats, Cairo, 1913.