On 7th November 2017, Artcurial
will organize its second auction of the year dedicated to archaeology and to Middle east arts. This sale will be led by a collection of antiques with a prestigious provenance: that of the French writer Henry de Montherlant (1895-1972). Looking back to ancient times, the writer had a close embodiment of ideal culture and values that struck his imagination, and fuelled his work. For him, these values were embodied in these ancient sculptures that he loved to collect. 38 of his Roman and Greek statues will be auctioned. They were a part of the decor of his Parisian apartment.
The ensemble includes Greco-Roman marbles, such as a female statue representing a nymph or a Diana huntress estimate: 100, 000 120,000/ $110, 000 132, 000) or Grande tête de Déméter (estimate 60,000 80,000/ $66,000 88,000) alongside important Roman bronzes such as a military masque discovered in Conflans (estimate: 60,000 80,000 / 66,000 88,000 $).
Furthermore, the auction will present a monumental Egyptian granodiorite Sphinx, glasses and bronzes from the Shlomo Moussaieff collection as well as important tiles in the chapter devoted to Islamic arts.
« The dispersion of the Henry de Montherlant collection highlights his passion for Antiquity, thanks in particular to significant pieces, including the Conflans bronze masque.
In 1954, the writer expressed the wish to be buried with this mask. The Department of Cultural Affairs refused to grant his last wish.» --Mathilde Neuve-Eglise, specialist Archaeology & Middle East Arts department, Artcurial
Henry de Montherlant, A passion for Antiquity
Henry de Montherlant, born on 21st April 1895 in Paris, is a passionate writer from the age of seven. As an only, much loved and pampered child, he receives a rigorous religious education. In 1904, the book Quo Vadis? by Henryk Sienkiewicz, depicting a love story between the patrician Marcus Vinicius and Christian Callina, sparks his desire to become a writer. This novel will deeply mark his life and will provide him with the themes that he will address frequently in his work such as friendship, Rome and suicide.
He reads Barrès, Nietzsche and Plutarch, works in which Henry de Montherlant finds an ideal of courage and ancient virtues.
The First World War erupts, the writer is assigned to the intelligence service. In 1919, he becomes secrétaire général de l'uvre de l'Ossuaire de Douaumont. Impressed by the example of the Homers Greeks who proclaim that when fighting they will not retain any hatred for the enemy, he will remain faithful to the values of respect for the opponent in combat his entire life. He wishes for the ossuary to be dedicated to the glory of mankind. Patriot without being a nationalist, he describes in Le Songe, published in 1922, the courage and the friendship of combatants. In 1924, Chant funèbre pour les morts de Verdun is published, where he compares the values of war, that the soldiers live on the field of battle, to those of the peace.
In 1925, he leaves for ten years of travel in the Mediterranean; in Italy, North Africa and Spain where he becomes an avid bullfighting spectator.
In addition, as early as the 1940s, the theatre takes an important place in his work. Among his most famous plays: La Reine morte, Fils de personne and Malatesta. In 1960, he was elected to the French Academy, without even having submitted candidacy, given André Siegfrieds seat. At the age of 77, blind and paralysed, Henry de Montherlant commits suicide on 21st September 1972. His ashes will be scattered in Rome on the Forum and in the River Tiber.
Writer and passionate about by the Antiquity, Henry de Montherlant constituted a collection of antiques throughout his life, symbols of the values that he held dear and that he transcribed in his works. According to testimonials, his Parisian residence resembled a museum. Among the forty antiques that Artcurial will disperse on November 7th will include the following Hellenistic inspiration marbles: a female statue representing a nymph or a Diana huntress (estimate: 100,000 120,000/ $110,000 132,000) or Tête de femme (estimate: 40,000 50,000/ $44,000 55,000).
The Roman period will present a childs bust or a marble funeral urn, and the bronze Conflans Masque representing the frontal piece of a parade or burial military helmet. Discovered in Meurthe-et-Moselle in 1908, it is one of the most momentous discoveries of Roman archaeology in the East. In 1954, Henry de Montherlant announces on television that he has this Roman mask in his possession and wishes to carry it to his grave, placed on his face. After his suicide in 1972, Lorrain archaeologists mobilize against his wish, to save this archaeological gem from oblivion. His dying wish is refused (estimate: 150,000 200,000/ $165,000 220,000).
Egyptian and Islamic art
A monumental Egyptian granodiorite sphinx will complete this auction. A fine example of the Ptolemaic period, this sphinx was purchased in 1986 by eminent gallerist Heidi Vollmoeller (1916 - 2004) and has remained in the same family since.
Islamic art will also be represented by a tile covered in Kufic inscriptions, dating from 1st quarter of the 13th century. This significant tile comes from the former Hakky Bey collection dispersed in Paris in 1906. The technique of metallic lustre allowed ceramists to recreate the effect of precious metals (estimate: 14,000 16,000/ $15,400 17,600).