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Ancient animals lead Christie's New York Fall Sale of Antiquities on 13 December
A Western Asiatic Inlaid Chlorite Feline, Circa Late 3rd Millennium B.C. | 10 ¼ in. (26 cm.) high. Estimate: $600,000-900,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2013.

NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s presents the fall sale of Antiquities on 13 December at 10am, which will feature over 170 lots from the ancient world. Exquisite sculptures highlight the sale, with a Mesopotamian inlaid chlorite feline, an Egyptian faience hippopotamus, and a spectacular animal mosaic with an elephant among the top lots. With estimates ranging from $1,000 to $900,000, the sale is expected to realize in excess of $5 million and will be directly followed by the 15th Annual sale of Ancient Jewelry.

Leading the sale is a superbly sculpted Mesopotamian feline (estimate: $600,000-900,000), circa late third millennium B.C., which sits on its hind legs, with a snarling mouth open to reveal its fangs. From the “Intercultural Style,” which spans across the Near East, from the Euphrates to the Indus Rivers, this feline is finely carved and ornamented with elaborate inlays. At 10 ¼ inches tall, the impressive scale of this seated feline distinguishes it from other similar surviving sculptures.

An Egyptian faience hippopotamus (estimate: $400,000-600,000) is also among the sale’s highlights and dates back approximately 4,000 years to the Middle Kingdom, 11th-12th dynasty, 2040-1783 B.C. Though the subject of this 8 inch long sculpture may seem playful to the modern viewer, hippopotami were both revered and feared, presenting a legitimate danger to the daily lives of Ancient Egyptians. The hippopotamus was also believed to be encountered on the journey into the afterlife, as crossing the river was a metaphor for the passage from one life into the next. The present example was likely created with the intention of placing it in a burial tomb and, as was customary, its legs were purposely broken, to prevent the hippopotamus from bringing harm to the deceased.

A large Roman marble mosaic floor (estimate: $200,000-300,000) dates to circa 4th-5th century A.D. Preserved on two panels, the work employs a newly embraced style of the period in which the animal subjects were spread over the space, rather than being confined to distinct compartments. The animals could exist freely, forming groups and interacting with one another or with limited landscape elements. In the present example, an elephant and an ostrich stand amidst the foliage of a date palm at the center; a lioness and her two cubs are shown in the upper left, while an antelope grazes on the right. An impressive twelve-feet-wide, the floor was exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art, where it was on loan for twenty years.

Two exceptional Egyptian coffins will also be included in the December sale. A wood funerary ensemble (estimate: $200,000-300,000) from the Third Intermediate Period, 21st dynasty, 1070-945 B.C., is comprised of a coffin lid and trough, and a mummy-board, all of which are brightly painted with an abundance of iconographic representations and texts. This coffin is one of a well-known class of luxury coffins made for the High Priests of Amun and their families during a period when those priests controlled Southern Egypt from Thebes. As many ancient burial ensembles were dismantled in the 19th and early 20th centuries so the wood could be used to fuel locomotives, this ensemble is all the more rare for the mummy-board having survived with the coffin. Also in the sale is a wood coffin for kA-di(t)-iwn (estimate: $40,000-60,000) from the Late Period, 26th dynasty, 664-525 B.C., with quite a colorful past, having been on display in J. Sam Houston’s traveling museum of curiosities in the early 20th century.

Among the Roman works of art is a marble statue of Eirene, the personification of peace, circa 1st-2nd century A.D. (estimate: $90,000-120,000). The statue was once housed in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts after bring donated to the institution in 1847, making it one of the earliest ancient sculptures to enter an institutional collection in the United States. This work closely resembles the bronze statue of Eirene holding Ploutos (wealth) by the Greek sculptor Kephisodotos, which is recognized in several Roman copies, including an example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

A fantastic selection of armor will also be present in the December sale, including a suit of armor encompassing a helmet, a breast-plate and back-plate, and greaves, two Corinthian helmets, and a Greek bronze shield (estimate: $20,000-30,000) from the Hellenistic Period, circa first half of the 3rd century B.C. The shield, which was hammered from a single sheet, features a central starburst, or Macedonian star, whose twenty-four rays are encircled by an inscription that translates to, “Of King Demetrios.” This shield originally had inner fittings, allowing it to be worn in such a way that would protect the warrior’s shoulder, and would enable him to hold his sarisse (long spear) with both hands.

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December 1, 2013

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Ancient animals lead Christie's New York Fall Sale of Antiquities on 13 December

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