Sculpture was one of the most powerful presences in the cities of both Greek and Roman cultures, it was found in parks and squares, in temples and cemeteries and within many of the homes of the affluent too. The next Bonhams
sale of Antiquities on October 5th, has a strong offering of Greek and Roman sculpture that reflects the strong presence this art form played in these two cultures.
Greek and Roman sculptures in stone, marble and bronze are important as they often tell us a story about Gods, Heroes, Events, Mythical Creatures and culture in general.
Top item in the sale is Lot 96, a Greek marble bust of a goddess of the Hellenistic Period, circa 3rd Century B.C, possibly Aphrodite but more likely to be Artemis. She is depicted with her head inclined to the left, her oval face with sensitively carved features has her deep-set lidded eyes with the original inlaid marble eyes remaining. The sculpture is estimated to sell for £100,000-150,000.
This bust carries a sense of serene divinity characterised by the softly curving features and wavy hair of the Aphrodite of Knidos. However the identity of the goddess is by no means certain and in fact the facial proportions of this bust appear more slender than usually found in depictions of Aphrodite of this period, recalling contemporary representations of the goddess Artemis instead. Indeed the drapery at the neck show that this bust was intended for a fully-clothed figure and therefore more likely perhaps to depict Artemis.
Another very attractive Greek sculpture is that of a young girl holding a bird, which would have stood in a cemetery. Lot 283, dating from Circa 4th-3rd Century B.C. would have commemorated the buried child and stood on a grave. The girls head and body are separately-carved, both in the round, the girl with her head downcast and slightly turned to the left, wearing a peplos with long apoptygma (overfold), the sleeve falling over her right shoulder, holding a bird in her hands. It is estimated to sell for £30,000-50,000. Such poignant depictions of young girls shown holding a bird were popular in funerary and votive sculpture from Classical Greece.
An image of a household god, Lot 107, represents the Roman deity, Lar. The bronze figure of the god shown dancing, dates to the 1st Century B.C./A.D. The sizeable figure standing on tiptoe, dances forward with his right leg advanced, his head turned to the left to look up at his raised left arm, once holding a rhyton or cornucopia, his right arm at the side, now missing, wearing a tunic with long apoptygma (overfold). The edges of the tunic drapery billowing with movement, a thick sash wound about his waist, looped and tucked at either side, the ends flowing out. He wears open-toed boots with the animal skin lining folded over the tops. He has a high radiate-style wreath in his hair, curls clustered around his forehead, the eyes inlaid with silver. This lot is estimated to sell for £100,000-150,000.
The Lares were the family gods, protectors of the house, and images of them were placed in household shrines or lararia. They are usually depicted with attributes of cornucopia or a rhyton in the raised hand, and a libation bowl such as a patera or phiale in the lowered hand. Drawing on Greek art and the traditions of Rome's past, Augustus linked the cults of the Lares to that of the Genius of the Emperor between 12 and 7 B.C. and it is likely that this bronze dates to that period.
Finally, Lot 95, is a Roman marble head of a youth, Greek, circa 1st Century B.C./A.D. It is a later copy of a type by one of the greatest of Greek sculptors, Polykleitos of Argos. The boys head is downcast and tilted to the left, his short hair clustered in curls over his head, with lidded eyes and slightly parted lips. It is estimated to sell for £10,000-15,000.
Polykleitos of Argos was one of the most most important Greek sculptors of the Classical Period. Chiefly active between 460-420 B.C., he created a Canon of proportion that was highly influential and a number of his masterpieces such as the Spearbearer, the Fillet binder, and the Discus carrier, have been identified through later copies.