Chronology : 600 BCE - CE 1 to 1000
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
Bronze figure of Artemis and the stag
2007 SOLD 28.6 M$ including premium by Sotheby's
The image below is shared by Wikimedia with attribution : By Ana Carina Lauriano ╰★╮ (Flickr: Met Museum - NY) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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.
Reign of Hadrian - Marble Bust of Antinous
2010 SOLD for $ 24M including premium by Sotheby's
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.
2013 SOLD 1.47 M€ including premium
The extreme realism of faces and hairdressing, the jewelry, the clothing details on the upper chest give an idea of the fashion during the Roman period, as well as the ethnic variety. Warm colors, when they are well preserved, highlight the quality of the picture.
At the burial, the wooden boards were wrapped in the bands of the mummy with an opening that enabled the visibility onto the painted face. In large quantities but often taken without sufficient scientific caution, the Fayum portraits have not revealed all their secrets.
Facial features appear realistic. The age of the model could fairly well match the age of death of the mummified person. However, some recurring details, including the eyes always too large, are suggesting that the artists were working from modellos just after the death of the subject.
On May 29 in Paris, Pierre Bergé et Associés sells a superb example of Fayum portrait of a young woman, 38 x 22 cm.
The first available information dates it from the reign of Nero. This dating may seem a little early, but it is consistent with the hypothesis that the funeral customs of Egypt have changed at the beginning of Roman rule, succeeding the Ptolemaic or Greek period which had kept the ancient traditions of mask and sarcophagus.
POST SALE COMMENT
This portrait is great in its class. It was sold for € 1.47 million including premium.
The Torso of an Emperor
2010 SOLD 2.2 M$ including premium
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 many similarities between this lot and another marble torso, for sale by Christie's in New York on December 9. 119 cm high, it is a half-century later to the Julio-Claudian dynasty, and could represent Trajan.
The main scene on the abdomen shows two griffins-lions facing each other and separated by a censer. Above, on the shoulders, the head of Gorgon grimaces. The belt consists of a row of masks.
The comparison from the photographs does not identify a real difference in quality between the two lots. Of course, only a direct inspection may give the truth. Christie's attribute to their torso an estimate of $ 600K.
POST SALE COMMENT
With a less dense decoration than the torso sold by Sotheby's that I took as a reference, Christie's torso could not expect to attain the same price. It got a very good result, $ 2.2 million including premium, well above the estimate.
The Colossal Strength of Hercules
2014 SOLD for $ 2.74M including premium by Christie's
2018 SOLD for $ 2.4M including premium
The Romans of the first two centuries of the Empire appreciated the white marble sculptures showing larger than life nude men with all their strength. The models were taken in classical Greece from the 5th and 4th centuries BCE. Too fragile, head and limbs have mostly disappeared.
The Athlete's torso from the Saint-Laurent - Bergé collection was sold three times by Christie's : € 1.3M in February 2009, £ 960K on October 24, 2013, £ 1.08M on July 9, 2015. These results include the premium.
The Romans found the paroxysm of this art in the legend of Hercules. A torso exhibiting bulging muscles was sold for $ 2.74M including premium by Christie's on December 11, 2014 over a lower estimate of $ 1M. It is estimated $ 2.5M for sale by Christie's in New York on October 31, lot 48. Including the left leg preserved down to the knee, this fragment is 132 cm high.
The headless hero wears on his left shoulder the skin of the lion which symbolizes his greatest glory after the success of his labors. The position is slightly swayed, indicating that the missing right arm had been leaning on the club.
No exact Greek model is known. It is however a very close variant to the Herakles Albertini preserved at the Museo Nazionale in Rome whose two legs are complete. An Apulian krater with red figures made several centuries before the Roman replica shows an artist busy painting a white marble of a similar type. In these three examples the position of the lion skin is different from one another.
The Roman Torso from the Saint-Laurent Collection
2015 SOLD for £ 1.08M including premium
Here is how I discussed this artwork in 2013 :
With Polycletus and Phidias, the Greek art got disinterested about gods to better represent the human. Looking for an extreme realism, Polycletus showed the naked man in his whole strength and no shame.
The man of Polycletus is usually standing in a flexible attitude. For the first time, the correct proportions are based on a numerical model. The muscles are perfect.
The Romans were great lovers of sculpture. Their creations are often original, as in the portraits of emperors and the scenes with children. Roman copies provide valuable and often unique information about Greek art.
The lot for sale is a marble torso of a powerful athlete. This larger than life statue 94 cm high is a Roman copy made 1900 years ago. The head and limbs are missing but the position of shoulders and hips leads to compare this work with the art of Polycletus.
This torso was featured for many years in the living room of Yves Saint-Laurent, where beyond a possible homosexual appeal it certainly was a reminder to a bygone era when full male nudity was not taboo in major arts. With this outstanding pedigree, it was sold € 1.3 million including premium at Christie's in February 2009 over a lower estimate of € 300K.
Pax Romana in Britannia
2010 SOLD 2.28 M£ including premium
Cumbria, later Cumberland, is the north-west of England (Britannia), on the border of Scotland (Caledonia). From 875AUC, this territory was protected in the north by the Hadrian wall.
The era of Pax Romana is unique in world history: between the reigns of Augustus and Trajan, the Roman domination was total, without invasion and with limited civil wars. This political success that spans over a century is based on a strong network of garrisons located throughout the borders of the Empire.
Our helmet is necessarily subsequent to the conquests of Vespasian, begun in 824AUC. Christie's dates it to the late first century or to the second century of our calendar.
It is an equipment for parade or sport, not a military helmet. It is composed of two parts. The bronze Phrygian shaped cap is topped by a griffin crest where streamers could be tied. The face mask bearing the likeness of a young man is in tin plated bronze.
This lot is estimated £ 200K, for sale by Christie's in London on October 7. It is shown in the press release shared by Artdaily. As usual in this group, subtract 753 years to convert the Roman calendar dates in the usual system.
POST SALE COMMENT
This beautiful witness to the ancient history of England was worth better than its estimate, and had aroused local passions before the auction. It was sold £ 2.28 million including premium.
170-180 The Bust of the Philosopher-Emperor
2012 SOLD 2.05 M$ including premium
Warrior, philosopher and emperor, Marcus Aurelius was one of the best choices that have been made for the highest political position. After his accession to power in the year 914 of Rome, 1850 years ago, he managed to jointly conduct his studies as a Stoic philosopher and his military campaigns.
All his effigies show a serious figure. His manners were impeccable (a rare quality for a Roman Emperor!) and he was highly beloved by his fellow citizens.
The draped bust in marble for sale by Christie's in New York on December 5 shows Marcus at the end of his life. It was probably executed between 923 and 933 of Rome during his lifetime. 90 cm high including the base, this portrait is larger than life, a common feature in Roman sculpture.
The man has a big mustache and a curly beard in separated points attesting the acknowledgement by his contemporaries of his quality of Wise man. The face and the top of the garment are carved with precision and realism, which is the most appreciated feature in this category of artworks.
This statue is estimated $ 800K.
POST SALE COMMENT
This ancient bust of large size and good quality deserved better than its estimate. It was sold $ 2.05 million including premium.
The God with the Curly Beard
2015 SOLD for $ 3.1M including premium
In the early 1780s Pacetti had in hand a monumental marble head 41 cm high of a bearded god, which he used as a model to complete headless statues of Jupiter and Aesculapius. This head was also copied in marble, plaster and terracotta. Such a prolific use suggests that Pacetti was the sole owner of the antique marble.
The trend is to recognize Zeus in this bust with pure face lines, very long hair and curly beard that will be much later a symbol of antiquity in the surrealist compositions of De Chirico.
The marble recovered by Pacetti is the only known example of this type. A similarity of facial structure with a portrait of Alexander the Great leads to conclude that it is a copy of a Hellenistic statue. Made in Rome around the second century of the empire, the head has been carefully restored, certainly by Pacetti himself. The shoulders and the base are additions, probably by his workshop.
This antique bust on its socle from the late eighteenth century is estimated $ 800K, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on June 3, lot 34.