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
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.
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.
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.
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.
130-138 The Beauty of Antinous
2019 SOLD for $ 2.1M including premium
Hadrian leaves Rome in 128 CE for a tour of the eastern Mediterranean provinces. In 130 he exhibits beside him a young man of exemplary beauty who has reached the rank of favorite. Born in Bithynia with Greek roots, Antinous is barely 20 years old. He had probably been trained for several years to be part of the emperor's personal suite. His biography is limited to two anecdotes.
In Libya around September 130, he participated in a lion hunt during which he was saved by the emperor himself. Nevertheless Hadrian had been ill for several years. This first heroic episode could make Antinous compared to Hercules.
About one month later, Antinous dies while falling in the Nile for an unknown reason. For the superstitious Egyptians, his fate is comparable to that of Osiris. Without waiting for the corpse to be mummified, Hadrian raises his friend to the rank of a deity and multiplies his places of worship throughout the empire. The hypothesis of a sacrifice premeditated by the emperor to promote his own philhellenic ambitions cannot be ruled out.
The posthumous iconography of Antinous is abundant with a great repetitiveness in portraiture and hairstyle, probably copying a model approved by the emperor. After the death of Hadrian in 138 CE, the cult continues but the renewal of the images is no longer useful to the sycophantic courtiers.
The beauty of Antinous continues today to arouse admiration. A larger-than-life marble bust with a broken nose was sold for $ 24M including premium by Sotheby's on December 7, 2010 over a lower estimate of $ 2M.
Engraved hard gems are much better preserved than marble or coins. On April 29 in New York, Christie's sells a 3.4 cm long intaglio in black chalcedony which is considered as the most beautiful portrait of Antinous in existence. The head is complete but the broken edges have been replaced since immemorial time by a golden disc. This jewel that could be used as a seal is estimated $ 300K, lot 37.
#AuctionUpdate The top lot in today's Masterpieces in Miniature: Ancient Engraved Gems formerly in the G. Sangiorgi Collection was 'A Roman Black Chalcedony Intaglio Portrait Of Antinous,' which realized $2,115,000 against a high estimate of $500,000 https://t.co/ZwKuHEI30D pic.twitter.com/q4uk7d15n1— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) April 29, 2019
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.
Pax Romana in Britannia
2010 SOLD 2.3 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 £ 2.3 million including premium.
The image is shared on Wikimedia with attribution : Portable Antiquities Scheme from London, England [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]
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.
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.
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.