Greek marble bust of a goddess of the Hellenistic Period, circa 3rd Century B.C. Photo: Bonhams.
Top item in the sale at £118,850, was 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.
Swiss private collection, Ticino, since 1938.
Literature: This bust owes its sense of serene divinity to the Praxitelean type of the 4th Century B.C., characterised by the softly curving features and wavy hair of the Aphrodite of Knidos. For a related Aphrodite head from Kos, also of the 3rd Century B.C. which demonstrates the softly moulded facial features of this period, cf. M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1955, fig. 32.
Note: 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, cf. M. Bieber, The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1955, fig.41.
The use of inlaid eyes reflects the original medium of bronze in which many of Praxiteles' and his contemporaries' works were produced. Other marble copies of original bronzes were produced with eyes hollowed for inlay such as the Athena Lemnia head in the Archaeological Museum of Bologna, but the most are all now missing their eyes. This bust with surviving original inlaid eyes allows us a sense of the Knidos: 'melting gaze of the eyes with their bright and joyous expression...to preserve the spirit of Praxiteles' (Lucian Eikones, 6).
The Lares were 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.
Hesperia Art Ltd, New York, early 1990s.
Japanese private collection, acquired in 1998.
Literature: 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.
Note: This type is thought to have its origins in the Hellenistic dancer type created by the painter Theodotus in the 2nd Century B.C.: D.G. Mitten & S.F. Doeringer, Master Bronzes of the Classical World, Exhibition Catalogue, 1967, p.263. Certainly the energy of movement in this bronze seems to reflect the vibrancy of Hellenistic art. For a similar size and quality Lar, cf. Exhibition Catalogue, A Passion for Antiquities: Ancient Art from the Collection of Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman, J. Paul Getty Museum, 1994, pp.316-8, no.164.
The upright nature of the wreath and the longer hair of this figure are rather unusual, and have some similarities with images of Alexander the Great in the guise of Helios. For another Alexander-like bronze Genius, cf. C.C. Vermeule & J.M. Eisenberg, Catalogue of the Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Bronzes in the Collection of John Kluge, New York and Boston, 1992, no.88-51.
Lot 128, an attractive Roman portrait of an African youth in dark grey marble, sold for £106,850.
Another very strong Greek sculpture was 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. It sold for £54,050. Such poignant depictions of young girls shown holding a bird were popular in funerary and votive sculpture from Classical Greece.
With David Drey, London, 1968.
Literature: The head is likely to be after a type found in Hellenistic bronzes but for a slightly smaller scale dark grey marble figure of an African boy from Tunisia, also demonstrating similar tightly curled and drilled hair, the slightly open mouth and also inlaid eyes, cf. N. de Chaisemartin, Les Sculptures Romaines de Sousse et des Sites Environnants, Rome, 1987, pp. 47-9, fig. 42.
Note: For a related late Hellenistic dark grey marble portrait of a Nubian in the Brooklyn Museum, C.C. Vermeule, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1981, no. 113. For other depictions of African male heads in stone, cf. a Roman Imperial portrait head with tightly curled hair in F. Snowden, Blacks in Antiquity, 1970, fig. 68 and also fig. 69 a Meroitic head.
Finally, Lot 95, a Roman marble head of a youth, Greek, circa 1st Century B.C./A.D sold for £30,000. It is a later copy of a type by one of the greatest of Greek sculptors, Polykleitos of Argos. The boy’s head is downcast and tilted to the left, his short hair clustered in curls over his head, with lidded eyes and slightly parted lips.
A Roman marble head of a Polykleitan youth. Greek, circa 1st Century B.C.-A.D.
Probably the Diskophoros, his head downcast and tilted to the left, his short hair clustered in curls over his head, with lidded eyes and slightly parted lips, 6½in (16.5cm) high, mounted. Sold for £30,000
Provenance: Property of a Private Trust.
Swiss private collection, Binningen, Switzerland, 1980s.
Acquired from Dr H. Becherani Collection in January 1989.
Published: C. Picon 'Polykleitan and related sculptures in American Collections. Recent Acquisitions', in W.G. Moon, Polykleitos, the Doryphoros, and tradition pp. 229-245, fig.13.5-6.
Note: 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 Doryphoros (Spearbearer), the Diadumenos (Fillet binder) and the Diskophoros (Discus carrier) have been identified through later Hellenistic or Roman copies.
For a related head in the Davis Museum of Wellesley, cf. C. Vermeule, Greek and Roman Sculpture in America, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1981, no.19.