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Rare depiction of a Republican Roman man leads Christie's London Sale of Antiquities in October
The Roman marble janiform herm of Dionysus, circa 2nd century A.D., shows the god with rounded cheeks and cupid-bow lips, his wavy hair swept back from his face and tied in a fillet. Estimate: £150,000 - £250,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2014.

LONDON.- The Christie’s sale of Antiquities in London on 1 October 2014 comprises 189 lots with exceptional provenance which span the ancient world from the 4th Millennium B.C. to the 7th Century A.D. Leading the sale is a rare and arresting portrait of a distinguished Roman man (estimate: £200,000-300,000). Further highlights include a Roman marble janiform herm of Dionysus (estimate: £150,000 - 250,000), an Assyrian gypsum cuneiform dedicatory panel, which is believed to be the most detailed Assyrian royal inscription known to date (estimate: £100,000 - 150,000), and property from The Rudolf Schmidt (1900-1970) Collection. With estimates ranging from £800 to £200,000 the sale is expected to realise in excess of £2 million.

An arresting portrait of a Roman man encapsulates the naturalistic tradition of the Republican Period of the 1st century B.C. The emphasis on realism is manifest in this sculpture, from the finely carved small lidded eyes to the delicately incised eyebrows and ‘crow’s feet’. This realism lends an almost photographic quality to the portrait, a snapshot of an otherwise forgotten man from one of the most turbulent times in Roman history. The non-drilled pupils and lack of incised irises, as well as the small patch of plastically rendered hair-locks over the forehead, suggest that it was likely produced in the late 1st century B.C., at the close of the Republican Period and the beginning of the Julio-Claudian Dynasty.

The Assyrian gypsum cuneiform dedicatory panel is a highly important document from the reign of Tukulti- Ninurta I of Assyria, circa 1243-1207 B.C. (estimate £100,000 - £150,000). Finely engraved on both sides, with 280 lines of text divided into eight columns, the text records military campaigns, the construction of a new palace complex, blessings on future rulers, and finishes with a ‘curse’ on those who do not maintain the new building. The goddess Ishtar, ‘mistress of chaos and combat,’ is invoked: ‘May she turn his manhood into female [...] may she break his weapon on the battlefield, may she bring him defeat and turmoil [...] and hand him over to his enemies!’ The panel is the only complete version of this significant text, known from 18 other fragmentary clay and stone tablets found at Assur, and will form a notable addition to the understanding of the achievements of Tukulti-Ninurta I.

The Roman marble janiform herm of Dionysus, circa 2nd century A.D., shows the god with rounded cheeks and cupid-bow lips, his wavy hair swept back from his face and tied in a fillet (estimate: £150,000 - £250,000). This depiction of a youthful Dionysus with idealised features is highly unusual on a herm, as more commonly they depict a bearded or older Dionysus. Originally used in Classical Greece and placed at physical boundaries such as crossroads or doorways, by the Roman period herms served a largely decorative purpose. The present work probably would have been commissioned by a wealthy Roman to decorate his villa or gardens, as the association of Dionysus with nature, relaxation and leisure made him a fitting choice in this context.

Christie’s will be offering property from The Rudolf Schmidt Collection. Growing up in the milieu of artists such as Ferdinand Hodler and Giovanni Giacometti, Rudolf Schmidt’s passion was directed towards collecting. Beginning in the 1930s and stimulated by his travels in Iran that same decade, he began acquiring Luristan bronzes and Near Eastern seals, encouraged further by his encounter with notable collector Elie Borowski in the mid-1940s. Highlights from the present selection of 57 lots are vessels from the Early Dynastic Period in Egypt, Dynasty I-III (circa 3100-2647 B.C.). These vessels, made following the unification of Egypt in 3100 B.C., reflect a time of unity and strength, when quarrying expeditions for unusual and colourful stone were undertaken beyond the Nile Valley. The grey limestone from an unusual Egyptian crystalline limestone jar, circa 2750-2600 B.C., was mined in the Eastern desert (estimate: £30,000 - 50,000). The prerogative of royalty, these vases display the honed skill of the master craftsman, which was unsurpassed in later periods.

• A large Cycladic marble reclining female figure, circa 2600-2500 B.C. 18 in. (46.4 cm.) high Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

• An Attic black-figured neck amphora circa 525-500 B.C. 16 in. (40.6 cm.) high Estimate: £50,000 - 70,000

• A Canaanite bronze deity or worshipper, circa 1550-1200 B.C. 11 in. (29.2 cm.) high Estimate: £120,000 – 180,000

Today's News

September 2, 2014

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Rare depiction of a Republican Roman man leads Christie's London Sale of Antiquities in October

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