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Christie's announces spring sale of antiquities from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Near East
A Cycladic Marble Reclining Female Figure Early Spedos Variety, Early Cycladic II, circa 2600-2500 B.C. Estimate: $200,000-300,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s presents the spring sale of Antiquities on June 5th. Comprised of 131 lots, the sale will offer a breadth of superb works of art from the cultures of ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and the Near East. With estimates ranging from $2,000 to $400,000, this sale includes a wide selection of objects, from glass, bronze and pottery to marble portrait busts and bronze armor, offering both new and seasoned collectors the opportunity to enhance their collections at every level. The sale is expected to realize in excess of $4 million.

Leading the sale is an Egyptian painted wood mummy portrait of a woman, Roman period, circa 150 A.D. (estimate: $300,000-400,000). Mummy portraits from this period are among the most extraordinary artistic achievements to survive from antiquity. Created only for a few centuries, from the mid 1st century A.D. to the 3rd century A.D., these magnificent, hauntingly life-like images exemplify Roman period portraiture, serving as visual records of styles and trends. This wood panel depicts a woman of approximately 30 years of age. Most current scholarship ascribes the age of the subject in the portrait to be the age at death. She is depicted with a coiffure of center-parted curly hair pulled taut behind her ears in a manner displayed in portraits found primarily in Antinoopolis, a city founded by the Emperor Hadrian on the east bank of the Nile in Middle Egypt.

Also among the top lots of the sale is a colossal Cypriot limestone male head from the Archaic Period, which once resided in the collection of Luigi Palma di Cesnola, the first Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (estimate: $80,000-120,000). Cesnola immigrated to the United States in the late 1850s and was later appointed to a consulship as a U.S. representative to Cyprus. He spent his time in Cyprus overseeing excavations and building an unprecedented collection of Cypriot antiquities, which was later sold to the recently-founded Metropolitan Museum of Art. The present work was carved circa late 7th-early 6th century B.C., when local artisans had established a high level sculptural style in limestone, born from influences from their Greek, Phoenician and Egyptian contemporaries. Sculptures of bearded figures, such as the present example, were likely depictions of priests or dignitaries that were erected as votaries.

The Cycladic marble reclining female figure is one of the most iconic sculpture types surviving from antiquity. The work of unknown sculptors of the 3rd millennium B.C. (estimate: $200,000-300,000). Most excavated examples come from graves, but only comparatively few graves have yielded such figures, indicating the high status of their original owners. It is not known what meaning these simple and minimal marble figures had in antiquity or even if they ever served a function prior to their entombment. The modern rediscovery of Cycladic sculpture occurred in the 19th century, when figures were collected by travelers, some soon finding their way to museums such as the Louvre and the British Museum. Cycladic sculpture had a tremendous influence on the Modernist movement; they inspired many of the 20th century’s top artists, such as Modigliani, Brancusi, Moore and Picasso.

A Roman Marble Portrait Head of the Emperor Augustus, circa late 1st century B.C. – early 1st century A.D., will also be offered on June 5 (estimate: $200,000-250,000). This spectacular over-lifesized portrait depicts the Emperor with his characteristic features; including his strong cheekbones, a fleshy bow-shaped mouth, and unarticulated convex almond-shaped eyes. The three comma-shaped locks parted at the center of Augustus’ forehead, as seen here, are characteristic of the Primaporta portrait type, recognized on the famous example found at the villa of his wife Livia at Primaporta, now in the Vatican Museums. The Emperor is presented as a powerful and determined military man, who we continue to celebrate two millennia after his reign.

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