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Egyptomania! Blockbuster antiquities sale at Christie's New York includes 5 lots at over $1 million each
Greek gold-figured silver stemless kylix, circa late 5th century B.C. Estimate $900,000 – 1,200,000.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- Christie’s announces an incredibly important sale of Antiquities on December 7, at 10 am, which will offer over 225 lots, led by several exceptional works of Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman art, plus Near Eastern and European antiquities, along with some fine examples of Nordic Neolithic stone tools. The sale is expected to exceed $18 million. It will be followed by a sale of Ancient Jewelry at 2 pm. Both the auctions and their pre-sale viewings will take place in Christie’s Special Exhibition Galleries on the 20th floor.

Leading the sale is an Egyptian Head of a Pharaoh in red jasper, one of the rarest and most beautiful Egyptian works of art to appear at auction in decades (estimate: $3,000,000-$5,000,000). Nearly 4 inches high, the superbly sculpted head was originally part of a composite statue in which the face, hands and feet were all carved from a bright red jasper, a material that was used only rarely for larger statuary. The rest of the statue likely was carved from alabaster, limestone, or wood. The original complete statue would have stood about 36 inches high.

Since this red jasper head was first presented to the public at the Antikenmuseum Basel, where it was exhibited between 1998 and 2011, there has been intense scholarly debate as to the identity of the Pharaoh depicted. There are close stylistic parallels, in the shape of the head and the aquiline nose, to portraits of the 18th Dynasty female Pharaoh Hatshepsut and her stepson Thutmose III. Others see, in the treatment of the lips and the subtle creases on the neck, a close resemblance to portraits of the 19th Dynasty Pharaoh Seti I and his son Ramesses II. No matter the identity of the Pharaoh portrayed, the glorious qualities of the art of the New Kingdom are perfectly encapsulated in this exquisite red jasper portrait.

The sale includes 18 works of art from Property from the Collection of John W. Kluge Sold to Benefit Columbia University, a large and wide-ranging collection of artwork, furniture and decorative arts that are being offered for sale in several major auctions. The highlights of the antiquities are an extremely rare monumental Roman bronze figure of an Emperor, circa late 2nd – early 3rd century A.D., two important Egyptian bronzes and four richly decorated Apulian vases.

This exquisite and important figure of an Egyptian Queen was discovered in the ruins of Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli. The statue dates from the 2nd century A.D., a period of fanatical Egyptomania for the Roman aristocracy. An enthusiastic Egyptophile, Emperor Hadrian traveled there twice and outfitted his Villa with numerous sculptures, some appropriated from Egypt, while others, as this Queen, were purely Roman creations in the Egyptian style. This 33¾-in. high statue is a masterpiece, executed in basanite, a hard stone that was quarried in Egypt, where it was considered sacred and, as such, it was favored in Egypt for sculptures of deities. Estimate $3,000,000 – 5,000,000.

Superbly sculpted in high relief, this magnificent bust (6⅞ in. high) was originally placed in the center of a silver show vessel. It finds its closest parallel with one found in a villa at Boscoreale, near Pompeii, in 1895, now in the Louvre. Both depict Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Cleopatra VII and Mark Antony. Cleopatra Selene and her twin brother Alexander Helios were born in 40 B.C. After their parents’ deaths by suicide following the defeat by Octavian in 31 B.C., they were taken to Rome and raised in Octavian’s household, as royal hostages. Another hostage was Juba II, who in 25 B.C. was placed by the Emperor as a Roman client-king over his homeland of Numidia. Later, Octavian (Augustus) married them and installed them as king and queen of Mauretania (now Algeria).Estimate $2,000,000 – 3,000,000.

GREEK GOLD-FIGURED SILVER STEMLESS KYLIX; CIRCA LATE 5TH CENTURY B.CGreek gilt silver figural vessels recalling the style of Athenian red-figured pottery are exceedingly rare. Several such vessels were found at the Thracian city of Duvanlii. The Thracians were great consumers of Greek culture, including Athenian pottery. These high-status luxury vessels must have been specific commissions by wealthy Thracians, with the style of the engraving exactly copying the contemporaneous red-figure. The treatment of the drapery on the warrior recalls the intricate detail of the Meidias Painter and his circle, who flourished at the end of the 5th century B.C. Estimate $900,000 – 1,200,000.

This extraordinary krater (39½ in. high) and three others in the sale were first publicly shown in the ground-breaking exhibition that traveled to Richmond, Tulsa and Detroit in 1982-1983. Arthur Dale Trendall, foremost expert on western Greek pottery, named this unknown painter the Virginia Exhibition Painter. The obverse of all four vases shows one, two or three figures within an Ionic naiskos or aedicula. The figures in white may represent sculptures in stone or figures in the afterlife, while those in reserved red-figure are perhaps still living. Estimate $30,000 - 50,000.

Christie’s New York Ancient Jewelry sale features primarily wearable works of art from Greece, Rome, Byzantium, Egypt and the Near East, dating from the fourth millennium B.C. through 1,000 A.D., with individual pieces estimated at prices ranging from $1,000 up to $120,000. Some highlights include: A pair of Bactrian gold and turquoise bracelets with feline-headed terminals, circa 1st century A.D. (estimate: $90,000-120,000); a Celtic gold torque with elaborate voluted scrolling inspired by the art of the Greeks and Etruscans but in a uniquely Celtic style, circa late 5th - early 4th century B.C. (estimate: $70,000-90,000); a Meroitic gold bead necklace, circa 1st century A.D., composed of nineteen ram head pendants (estimate: $15,000-$20,000); a Thracian gold finger ring, circa 5th century B.C., engraved with a horse and rider (estimate: $30,000-50,000); a pair of Greek gold maenad earrings from the Hellenistic period, circa 3rd-2nd century B.C. (estimate: $25,000 - $35,000); a Roman carnelian ringstone, circa late 1st century B.C., engraved with a maenad riding a hippocamp (estimate: $25,000-35,000); and a Roman black jasper ringstone with a portrait of Mark Antony, circa 40-30 B.C.

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November 19, 2011

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