Chronology : 600 BCE - CE 1-1000
42 BCE Eid Mar Aureus of Brutus
2020 SOLD for £ 3.25M including premium by Roma Numismatics
narrated post sale in 2020
Caesar has himself appointed dictator perpetuo. Suspected of liberticide, he is assassinated less than two months later, in the Ides of March 44 BCE, by a group led by Brutus and Cassius. In a first phase, the tyrannicides are approved by the Senate. On official mission in Macedonia and Thrace, Brutus issues coins bearing his effigy. The abbreviation IMP (imperator) next to his name is only meaning "general".
Octavian (who will later be Augustus) and Antony claim separately the succession of Caesar. They are reconciled in 43 after a short war and obtain the condemnation in absentia of the tyrannicides. The civil war is then transferred against Brutus and Cassius who consider themselves the ultimate defenders of freedom.
At the beginning of 42, Brutus and Cassius want to return to Rome with their armies. They prepare their coins with the booty collected by Cassius in Asia Minor. The Brutus coinage becomes revolutionary. The front side bears the effigy with a slightly improved design. The back claims the assassination of Caesar by the inscription EID MAR (for Eidibus Martiis) in large letters under three symbolic figures : the cap of freedom between the daggers of the two tyrannicidal leaders.
EID MAR was struck in gold and silver with the same dies. These coins were recalled and melted down by Octavian and Antony after the defeats and death of Brutus and Cassius in October 42 and are very rare. A silver denarius was sold for $ 550K including premium by Heritage in September 2011 and another for $ 520K including premium by Goldberg in June 2014.
Three EID MAR aureus survive, one of which was very poorly centered and pierced. The best of the three, very well centered and in near mint condition, was sold for £ 3.25M including premium by Roma Numismatics on October 29, 2020, lot 463.
BCE - The Old Poet
2018 SOLD for £ 4.2M including premium
The old man is dressed in a pallium, a drapery which is lighter than a toga and completely uncovering the naked torso. He is sitting on a cushion. This 115 cm high statue has lost one arm and both feet and the nose is broken. The right shoulder has been restored.
His attitude is stiff and the facial expression is austere. The legs are apart in a proud position that evokes the figures of Jupiter on his throne and some early imperial portraits. It was thus probably created at the beginning of Augustus' reign in the latest years BCE. At that time the pallium was the usual mantle of the Romans.
The folding of the pallium is simple, without the social emblems that we would expect from the funerary statue of an aristocrat. He displays a scroll in his hand, meaning that he is a poet.
The statue was created in two parts attached at the hips, reserving a hollow for the ashes.
This rare, life-size statue of a Roman poet dates to the early years of the Empire, and will go on view in our London galleries this weekend. Uncover more about the mysterious funerary portrait here: https://t.co/Dq7mPE0bJV #SothebysAncient pic.twitter.com/DydL8SYlgO— Sotheby's (@Sothebys) November 29, 2018
Artemis and the Stag
2007 SOLD for $ 28.6 M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
This statue was found by chance in Rome around 1930 on a construction site near St John Lateran. It had probably decorated a private hall or garden during the transition period between the Republic and the Empire.
Some of its iconographic details are of the greatest rarity. The goddess is adolescent. The gesture of the arm shows that she has just sent away an arrow with a bow that is missing. The deer at her side is her pet, peacefully standing on its four legs. It is small, 43 cm high compared to the 92 cm of the goddess. On the other side of Artemis, there was some place for another animal, perhaps a hound.
This bronze was in permanent exhibition at the Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, which deaccessioned it to refocus on modern art. It thus shares with the Guennol lioness the characteristic of having been much loved by the public for many years before its auction.
Artemis and the stag was sold for $ 28.6M including premium by Sotheby's on June 7, 2007, lot 41, a record at that time for any sculpture at auction. It was bought at that sale by Giuseppe Eskenazi, acting for a private collector who made a long time loan of it to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The image shared by Wikimedia with attribution Ana Carina Lauriano ╰★╮ / CC BY features this group displayed at the Met.
early 1st century CE - The Syon Aphrodite
2014 SOLD for £ 9.4M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
The draped Aphrodite of Munich-Syon-Pozzuoli type is copied from a highly elegant Greek statue made around 420 BCE. An attribution to Alkamenes has been proposed. The Syon Aphrodite was sold by Sotheby's on July 9, 2014 for £ 9.4M including premium from a lower estimate of £ 4M, lot 17.
At 203 cm high, it is larger than life. This specimen, which had lost its forearms, had been admired by Aldrovandi in Rome around 1550 in the garden of the Cardinals Cesi. She was then considered as an Agrippina. It entered in 1773 alongside other monumental marbles in the Great hall of Syon House, the residence of the Dukes of Northumberland, identified as a Livia dressed as Juno.
This Aphrodite was too beautiful, with her oval face, her parted lips and her hair tied in a tiara. It remained in Syon, dismissed by the experts who believed that the head was modern because of a crack along the neck. Some restorations had been made in the 18th century, including the fitting of a pair of forearms. The discovery of its twin sister around 2002 in Pozzuoli finally confirmed the admirable state of conservation of the Aphrodite of Syon. It dates from the Julio-Claudian period, at the beginning of the 1st century CE.
Germanicus for Lord Elgin
2012 SOLD 8.1 M$ including premium
Augustus established a new autocratic regime, thus raising the Emperor's succession as a critical issue. He adopted Tiberius as his successor and then forced Tiberius to adopt Germanicus, in the year 749 of Rome, 2016 years ago.
These two potential successive heirs hated one another. Germanicus was young and beautiful. He was also one of the best generals in the history of Rome, and not interested in politics. When dying at the age of 34, he announced being certain that he had been poisoned.
Some years later, in 790 of Rome, the very unpopular Tiberius also dies, and his successor is the son of Germanicus : Caligula.
The popularity of the father is a good excuse to promote the son, whose criminal fantasies are not yet predictable. Marble portraits of Germanicus are then reissued from a model made at the time of his glory.
One of these marbles, 52 cm high, was purchased in Rome in 1799 of our calendar for the collection of Lord Elgin. This purchase was regular, unlike the removals of the Parthenon marbles made at the same time by the same Lord abusing his position as ambassador to Constantinople.
This portrait is impressive and in very good condition. The aquiline nose has an almost photographic accuracy, and very long sideburns and somehow rebellious curls attest the fashion of Julio-Claudian hairstyles.
It is estimated $ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 6. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The catalog was convincing about the exceptional quality of this marble bust. Its price, $ 8.1 million including premium, far above the higher estimate, is well deserved.
A Young Faun with the Mask of an Old Satyr
2013 SOLD 3.5 M$ including premium
This statuette from the beginning of the Roman Empire, 60 cm high, shows a naked putto wearing an oversized mask of satyr covering his head and shoulders.
The attitude of the putto is threatening, as also his old bearded head with wide open eyes. Indeed this child is not a putto but a faun with a small tail in the middle of the back. This fantastic juxtaposition of the extreme ages of life on a single individual is fascinating.
This masterpiece of antique surrealism made 2000 years ago has two particularly notable features : a hand coming out of the mouth of the mask, and the well chiselled head of child visible through the eyes of the mask. This monster was acting with a frightened child also known in the Ludovisi collection but lost since a long time.
Upon excavation, the statuette was a sensation. It is known from a drawing and an engraving of the period, and was repaired in 1628 by Alessandro Algardi for a payment of 12 scudi. It is estimated $ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 12. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
This fantastic sculpture was sold for $ 3.5M including premium.
Julio-Claudian Marble Torso
2010 SOLD for $ 7.3M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated later in 2010 before the sale of another Torso by Christie's (see below)
This marble without head and members was 110 cm high, larger than life as it was often the case with the statues of Roman emperors. The interest lay in the very fine carving of the breastplate, with animated and varied figures.
There are some similarities between this lot and another marble torso, 119 cm high, which was sold for $ 2.2M including premium by Christie's on December 9, 2010. it is a half-century later to the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and could represent Trajan. Its decoration is less dense than the example above.
133-138 The Bust of Antinous
2010 SOLD for $ 24M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2020
Around the Mediterranean sea, Hadrian shows himself passionately Philhellene, which is politically clever since it is necessary to avoid the eternal rivalries between the Greek cities. He was in Athens in 129 CE and in Egypt in 130.
A Bithynian about 20 years old, whose physical beauty matched the canon of Dionysus, was part of the emperor's suite. His biography contains no verifiable element : in fact he was more useful dead than alive. His drowning in the Nile reminds the epic legend of Osiris. His name was Antinous. The emperor deified him by imperial decree and multiplied the posthumous honors.
The emperor is powerful and the courtiers are numerous. The iconography of Antinous-Dionysus-Osiris takes on an unprecedented scale, which will cease to be useful after Hadrian's death in 138 CE.
A larger than life marble bust, 84 cm high including the base, was discovered in the 19th century in Banias, on the Golan Heights. It was inscribed in Greek by the dedicatee, belonging to a Roman patrician family : "from M. Lucius Flaccus to the god Antinous". Such a signature is unique in the iconography of Antinous.
In 133 and 134 Hadrian led a very deadly war in the Judaea raised by Bar Kokhba. Banias, romanized as Caesarea Philippi, had a long pagan tradition which justified an ostensible support to the emperor.
The bust is incomplete : the arms are missing, a shoulder is detached and the nose is broken. Despite this condition, it was sold for $ 24M including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 2010 over a lower estimate of $ 2M, lot 9.
193 The Auction of the Roman Empire
2019 SOLD for $ 4.8M including premium
This figure is the oversized portrait of a man in his mature age with an abundant beard and curly hair, in the fashion of the transition period between the Antonines and the Severans. He is a soldier, wearing a cuirass over his tunic.
The comparison with the coins identifies Didius Julianus, recognizable by the bump on the bridge of his nose and his protruding upper lip. This man was emperor for 9 weeks in 946 Ab urbe condita corresponding to 193 CE before being murdered or executed. He was hated during his reign as explained below and this bust cannot be posthumous.
The emperor Pertinax had just been assassinated by the Praetorian guard for attempting to reorganize the finances after the catastrophic reign of Commodus. The guards were awaiting retribution from any new emperor. Pertinax's father-in-law, Sulpicianus, promised to each man a bonus worth eight years of wages. Arriving at that time to try his luck, Didius Julianus gives way to the pressure of the guards and promises even more than his rival.
This way of taking power is considered by the armies as a shameful auction of the Roman Empire. It immediately triggers the civil war that will be won by Septimius Severus.
Raised by the mother of Marcus Aurelius, Julianus had hitherto made a successful career. The story of his short reign was told by Cassius Dio who worked for the Severans. It is certainly not objective.
Roman Bust of Athena
2010 SOLD for $ 4.1M including premium by Sotheby's
narrated in 2021
In 1787 Goethe is visiting the Palazzo Giustiniani in Rome. He falls in adoration in front of a Roman marble of Athena, 2.25 m high. The goddess wearing her Corinthian helmet is charming and serene, with slightly parted lips as if to whisper sweet words.
There are several Roman copies of this antique Greek figure. A marble bust was sold by Sotheby's on June 11, 2010 for $ 4.1M including premium from a lower estimate of $ 600K, lot 18.
This bust without base is 58 cm high including a chisel point which was probably intended to embed it in the draped body of the goddess. The nose is broken.