“New” Virgil Opera Coming to Auction

From a Christie’s press release:

On 12 June 2013, Christie’s London will offer a newly discovered, deluxe copy of Opera by Virgil (70-19 B.C.) in the sale of Valuable Printed Books & Manuscripts (estimate: £500,000 – 800,000). The Aeneid is accepted as the foundation stone of western literature, and this copy is the earliest edition a collector could ever aspire to own.

Printed in 1470, within a year of the beginning of printing in Venice, it is the second edition, acknowledged to be textually superior. Its rarity is indicated in the fact that the last copy to come on the market was sold almost a century ago, in 1920. This newly discovered copy is complete and printed on costly vellum for a wealthy patron; the elegance of its page and the hand-painted decoration add to its resemblance to a Renaissance manuscript, and indeed, an earlier owner may have regarded it as a manuscript, perhaps contributing to its true identity not being recognised until now.

This book combines rarity with great aesthetic beauty but also represents a monumental moment in the history of printing.

… I can’t find mention of when this was ‘newly discovered …

Poussin’s Hannibal Coming to Auction

This one’s interesting inasmuch as I’ve never seen this work before. The intro to a piece in Lebananon’s Daily Star:

Auction house Christie’s will offer an unconventional painting by French classical artist Nicolas Poussin, depicting Carthaginian general Hannibal astride an elephant, in July, expecting it to fetch 3-5 million pounds ($4.5-7.5 million). The early work is not considered one of the artist’s best and was little known until it appeared in public at an exhibition in Rouen in northern France in 1961.

But the auction house is hoping that its provenance – the painting was originally in the collection of Poussin’s greatest patron in Rome, scholar Cassiano dal Pozzo – will help boost interest when it goes under the hammer in London July 2.

“It was painted right after he arrived in Rome and he obviously developed as his career progressed,” said Georgina Wilsenach, head of old master and British paintings at Christie’s.

“I don’t think that takes away its appeal,” she added. “It is quite unusual. In terms of [Poussin] works coming up for auction, I think that most are religious paintings or mythological subjects.”

The canvas, dating from the mid-1620s and measuring around 1 by 1.35 meters, depicts Hannibal on an elephant leading his troops on the fabled journey from Iberia into northern Italy via the Alps to attack Roman forces in the Second Punic War. […]

And since it’s so unusual (I’ll bet most of you have never seen it either):

via the Daily Star

Very unPoussinish … clearly an early work.

Roman Sarcophagus in a Dorset Garden

Haven’t had this sort of story in a while, and this one is very interesting … from the Daily Mail:

An eagle-eyed antiques expert spotted a corner of what looked like a trough when he visited a property to look at some art indoors.

However, the expert spotted something in the garden – and fought through the undergrowth to reveal a 1,900-year-old marble sarcophagus.

Guy Schwinge, from Duke’s auction house in Dorchester, Dorset, also discovered a further treasure inside the house.

After rummaging around he happened upon an old auction catalogue from Duke’s – and it showed his saleroom had sold the ancient coffin in 1913.

It had remained at the Dorset house ever since, but the family had come to lose the knowledge of what it was.

Now this important lost treasure that has been dated to the second century AD is to go under the hammer again.

The 7ft long sarcophagus was made in Italy for a high ranking official, contemporaneous with Emperor Hadrian.

The decoration is centred by a pedimented entrance flanked by ionic columns, with the door slightly ajar. Further decoration includes laurel tied with a ribbon.

It is unclear when it was brought to the UK and its provenance goes back 100 years to when it was last sold.

The sarcophagus was part of the collection of Sir John Robinson from Newton Manor in Swanage, Dorset, which Duke’s sold.

In 1913 the object was bought by the family that owns the house on the Dorset coast where it was recently found, but it is unknown what it sold for.

Robinson was one of the greatest art experts and connoisseurs of the 19th century.

He was the first superintendent of the South Kensington Museum – now better known as the Victoria and Albert Museum.

He was also appointed as Queen Victoria’s Surveyor of Pictures and was largely responsible for building the collections of ancient and renaissance art at the museum.

He also amassed a large private collection of which this sarcophagus was a part. It’s possible that Robinson bought the sarcophagus on his travels to Italy.

Mr Schwinge said: ‘When I pulled up at the property I spotted what looked like a large garden trough peeping out from under some bushes.

‘I thought it looked interesting and when I commented the owner invited me to take a closer look.

‘As I drew closer I realised I was looking at a Roman sarcophagus in a remarkably good state of preservation, despite having been in the garden for 100 years.

‘After I went into the house to look at some other items, the client and I managed to find an old auction catalogue from 1913.

‘When I saw the name ‘Duke’s’ on the front I couldn’t believe it.

‘It turned out that we were the last firm to handle the sale in 1913 when we sold the collection of Sir John Charles Robinson at Newton Manor in Swanage.’

Art expert Laurence Keen OBE said: ‘This is a very important item. It is, to my mind, late 2nd or early 3rd century AD with carving of the highest quality.

‘The undecorated back probably suggests that it came from a private mausoleum of a high status individual where the tomb was placed against a wall.’

Another art expert said: ‘It is quite exceptional for a piece of Roman imperial art of this importance turn up in a garden.

‘It would be fascinating to find out where Robinson acquired it, but my view is that he probably purchased it on his travels in Italy.

‘It is much too fine to be Romano British.

‘There is always the chance, of course, that it came to this country in the 18th century and was originally part of one of the important Grand Tour collections of the Age of Enlightenment.’

The sale is on September 28.

The original article includes some photos (both now and ‘then’) … it’s a very interesting piece … not sure I’ve ever seen a temple depicted with the door slightly ajar (did this ‘house’ a former priest of some sort?).

Romans At Iwo Jima?

Okay … can’t resist this one. I’m zonked from the first day of school so I’m idly doing one of my semi-regular checks of ebay items and I come across this:

from an ebay auction … click for a larger version

It is described as a Roman lead relief from the 1th (sic) century A.D. depicting the capture of Vercingetorix. Here’s the original auction … is it just me or does it remind anyone else of:


Interesting Item Coming to Christie’s

One of the things that annoys me regularly when trying to cover auction things is that I can never seem to find the original press release when announcements are made of items which aren’t available in a calendar yet. A case in point is the coverage of the following item, which is coming to auction at Christie’s in December. It is mentioned both by Art Daily and Gallerist:

Christie’s via Art Daily

Here’s an excerpt of the description from Art Daily:

Christie’s announced the sale of a set of two important Roman bronze genre statues on December 5, circa late 1st century B.C.- early 1st century A.D. (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000). Both approximately twenty inches in length, the sculptures each depict a young girl pursuing a partridge. The toddlers are positioned similarly, sitting on the base, leaning forward with open arms and splayed fingers, stretching toward a bird that is just out of reach. The features are exquisitely detailed, with the eyes inlaid with white stone, one preserving further metal inlays. The lashes are of trimmed sheet bronze and their hair is delicately curled and formed in to a loose top-knot. The partridges are equally impressive, with the plumage naturalistically represented as they turn their head back to glance at their pursuer. The bronzes come to Christie’s from a private collection, the owner’s family having acquired them from renowned Swiss collector Giovanni Züst in the 1960s, whose collection formed the nucleus of Basel’s famed Antikensammlung.

see also:

… what a great little pair of bronzes!

Way Cool Winged Centaur at Sotheby’s

So it’s recess and I decide to page through the ecatalog of Sotheby’s upcoming antiquities auction … the first thing I come across of interest is described as an Etruscan black figure amphora, attributed to the Micali painter (6th/5th century B.C.) … Here’s a detail:

Check out the official photo … not only is this centaur interesting for having wings, but for having the proper ‘male anatomy’ on its forequarters. I once did a paper on centaurs in ancient art and as far as I was aware, this ‘proper forequarters’ thing came to an end in Mycenean times (maybe Dark Ages). This is an incredible piece and, alas, seems destined for a private collection, so make your screengrabs while you can.

Some Interesting Auction Items

Catching up with email last night (we’re in the pre-back-to-school-throw-your-routine-out-of-whack phase), I came across a link to Timeline Auctions’ upcoming antiquities offerings. I don’t recall ever having mentioned them before, but they appear to be one of many smaller auction houses who also sell via Live Auctioneers, which we have somewhat hesitantly mentioned before (here too). As we’ve seen in the past with these sorts of auctons, provenance varies greatly, e.g., this nice little Lar:

… comes from an old private collection formed in the 1950’s” (see the full description for a larger version of the image; all photos in this post come from the auction house itself)

The most interesting item is this second-century ‘addorsed double bust’:

… again, see the official description for larger versions … what’s interesting, of course (outside of the lack of a provenance) is that this one is male on one side and female on the other.  The faces, though, are somewhat similar when viewed side-by-side so I’m wondering if this might not be a depiction of Tieresias, before and after, as it were …

Also catching my eye were a pair of “bronze steelyard weights” which were the property of “a deceased detectorist”:

… (official description … one of the things is ‘a mount’) … which reminded me that ‘boxer’ found in Israel a year or so ago. As with the boxer, these items are said to be ‘weights’ used with hanging scales. What I find interesting is that we’re never given the actuall mass/weight of these things. Are they some standard weight? Anyone know?

The final item of interest (to me) is a Roman oil lamp, from the “Hornbeam collection”, which purports to show a female gladiator:

… the larger photo is definitely worth looking at, as “she” is described as holding a “mace and a shield” and this raised a bunch of questions for me (as folks who follow me on twitter and/or facebook know). First, how would one distinguish between an Amazon and a gladiatrix? Terrence Lockyer suggested that if the helmet had a visor, that might be the basis of the identification by the auction house (or collector).  That said, it’s worth comparing this particular individual to an Amazonomachia scene on a sarcophagus, apparently at the Louvre:

via wikipedia

… in which we see what appears to be a ‘characteristic’ shield and the weapon the ‘lady of the lamp’ is holding (i.e. an ax) … but not a helmet. In another scene, also at the Louvre, however:

… we get another interpretation . Note the warrior on the left, with her clothing off her shoulder, the crested helmet, and the shield. For those who were chatting with me about this, I think the thing I thought might be a ‘tragedy mask’ (i.e. the shield) is a shield; that’s probably a gorgon on the lamp. Whatever the case, clearly this lamp is depicting an Amazon. Someone could say it’s a gladiatrix dressed like an Amazon, I suppose …

I find it curious, however, that at least one of these items (the ‘Tieresias’) is being offered in such a ‘quiet’ environment; even the lamp — especially if it did portray a gladiatrix — would be of interest to a more ‘major’ auction house, no? hmmmmm …

Christie’s Upcoming Auction

Some of the interesting items in Christie’s upcoming antiquities auction include this torso of Aphrodite (from a 19th century Swiss collection) (the inline links will take you to the ‘official page’):

Christie's photo

A very interesting ‘young satyr’ with a panther at his feet (acquired pre-1970):

Christies photo

A bone figure of Aphrodite (left) and a doll (right) (acquired in the 1960s):

Christie's photo

There are 80+ other items … an awful lot of ‘satyrs’

Interesting Wreath Coming to Bonhams

From a Bonhams press release:

A delicate wreath made of fine gold oak leaves with acorns, of the type worn by Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon, is one of the highlights of Bonhams sale of Antiquities on April 28 in New Bond Street.

This stunning artefact, estimate £100,000-120,000, may once have graced the head of a ruler or dignitary over 2,000 years ago. “The fact that this delicate collection of fine gold leaves and acorns formed into a wreath has survived the centuries is almost miraculous,” says Madeleine Perridge, Antiquities Specialist at Bonhams. Previously in a private collection since the 1930s, “it is a beautiful example of a type that is rare to the market.”

The sale also boasts a private English Collection of finely-painted Greek vases of exceptional condition. Previously exhibited at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, they are painted by leading artists from Classical Athens. They include:

An Attic red-figure stemless kylix by Douris, circa 480 B.C. showing a draped youth with defined musculature, standing in an Athenian wine-shop amongst large amphorae, (estimate £30,000-40,000). Exhibited in the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard from 1937, this drinking cup is a fascinating image of Athenian life in the Classical period.

An unusual intact Attic white-ground alabastron of the group of the Negro Alabastra, (circa 490-480 B.C.) showing a female figure walking to the right and turning to look back, draped in a chiton with himation and wearing a necklace and bracelet, holding a wreath in her right arm. A black lion walks behind her, with a palm tree on the far left, the word ‘KALOS’ (beauty) inscribed three times around the figure. Estimate £30,000-50,000. The name Melanphis Kale can be translated as ‘Black Flower’. Such alabastra were given as love gifts and the frequent use of ‘Kalos’ supports this.

An Attic red-figure lekythos finely painted by the Providence Painter, (circa 5th Century B.C.) depicts the god Eros as a young man, standing nude, in profile to his left, his wings behind him, holding a kithara in his left hand, a plectrum on a red ribbon in his right. Estimate £25,000-35,000

An Attic red-figure hydria in the manner of the Meidias Painter, (Circa 420 B.C.) depicts two Maenads draped in clinging diaphanous chitons, dancing away from each other while holding a number of ritual objects. It is estimated to sell for £25,000-35,000.

An unusual Attic stamnos painted in the rare Six technique, from the workshop of the Antimenes Painter, circa 510 B.C. showing Theseus and the Minotaur with Ariadne. Estimated to sell for £150,000-250,000, it was previously in the Ferrucio Bolla Collection in the 1950s and the Stavros S. Niarchos Collection, and it has been exhibited at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, in 1980.

via Glory that was Greece Seen in Golden Wreath and Greek Vases at Bonhams.

Here`s a photo of the wreath:

Bonhams photo

Here`s the Douris kylix (I`m assuming):

Bonhams photo

Press coverage:

Tiberius ‘Pendant’ Coming to Auction

Interesting item coming to auction … from the Telegraph; some excerpts:

Dug up by former brick layer Pete Beasley in 1999, it was discovered yards from a hoard of other artefacts that are now at the British Museum.

The jewel dates from the first century, measures just 2.5 inches in length and depicts an emperor – probably Tiberius – wearing a laurel wreath.

It is inscribed with the letters Ti CAESAR above the head and has a precious red stone below. There is a loop at the top, suggesting it may have hung from a necklace.

Experts believe it was made in Alexandria in Egypt and brought to the UK with some of the first Roman settlers.

It was found 10 inches down in a field about 20 yards from the rest of the hoard that consisted of over 250 coins, a torque and a ring.

Telegraph photo

Mr Beasley, 68, from Portsmouth, Hants, found the treasures in Alton, Hampshire, after years of digging in the area.

“It is associated with the so-called Alton Hoard that consisted of 256 coins and various other finds,” he said. “I found it afterwards about 25 yards away. When I dug it up it was covered in some tarry stuff.


“The British Museum kept the rest of the hoard but gave this back as they couldn’t date it accurately because there is nothing to compare it with.

“I have taken it to experts here, in Europe and Egypt and they all think it is Egyptian and dates from the first century, like the rest of the hoard.


“It is inscribed with the letters TI CAESAR and includes a red cornelian stone.

“The titular form Ti Caesar appears frequently on the coins of Tiberius while the bust is particularly evocative of that depicted on the Alexandrian coins

“The facial features are “pharaonic” in style, especially the mouth so an Alexandrian origin is possible and perhaps it was a donative offering piece. It is unparalleled and we are delighted to have it at our sale.”

The jewel goes under the hammer on March 19 at TimeLine auctions in London.

Not quite sure what’s “pharaonic” about this; the fact that the British Museum declined it is also concerning, I would think. Other than ‘cameos’, has anyone ever seen a piece of Roman jewellery which depicted an emperor/general? Could this be a phalera? And if it is, might it not be Claudius depicted?

via Roman jewel depicting emperor expected to sell for £50,000 | Telegraph.

UPDATE (03/20/10): it fetched a nice price: