NEW YORK.- This afternoon, in a packed salesroom at Sothebys, The Guennol Lioness, one of the last known masterworks from the dawn of civilization remaining in private hands, sold for a remarkable $57,161,000, a record for any sculpture at auction.i That outstanding price also eclipsed the previous record for an Antiquity at auction and more than tripled the pre-sale high estimate of $18 million.
Richard M. Keresey and Florent Heintz, experts in charge of todays sale said, It was an honor for us to handle The Guennol Lioness, one of the greatest works of art of all time. Before the sale, a great connoisseur of art commented to us that he always regarded the figure as the finest sculpture on earth and it would appear that the market agreed with him!
A total of five different bidders, three on the telephone and two in the room, competed for the 3 ¼ inch limestone treasure. After auctioneer Hugh Hildesley opened the bidding at $8.5 million, four bidders jumped into the fray. When the bidding reached $27 million, a new bidder, standing in the back of the salesroom, raised his paddle for the first time. An intense battle ensued between that bidder and one determined client on the phone. When Mr. Hildesley brought the hammer down to several rounds of applause, the successful bidder, who was standing in the salesroom, would only identify himself as an English buyer who wishes to remain anonymous. The Guennol Lioness was included in a sale of Antiquities which brought a total of $64,955,839 (est. $16.7/22.2 million), the highest total ever for a sale in this category. The sale was 97% sold by lot and 100% sold by value with 80% of the sold lots exceeding their high estimate.
Diminutive in size, but monumental in conception, The Guennol Lioness was created approximately 5,000 years ago in the region of ancient Mesopotamia. Its creation was contemporaneous with the first known use of the wheel, the development of writing, and the emergence of the first cities. The sculpture was acquired in 1948 by Alastair Bradley Martin and his wife Edith, whose revered Guennol Collection of choice masterworks across countless periods and cultures has been celebrated by scholars and museums for decades. The Guennol Lioness had been on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art for nearly 60 years and extensively published. The proceeds of the auction will benefit a charitable trust formed by the Martin Family.