GENEVA — NEW YORK
PHOENIX ANCIENT ART SA – 2021 / 40
1 PEGASUS FINIAL 4 2 BLACK-FIGURE AMPHORA WITH A SIREN AND ANIMALS 9 3 CAMEO WITH A HEAD OF MEDUSA 11 4 SIREN PENDANT 14 5 STATUETTE OF SKYLLA
6 GROUP OF THREE HYBRID SILENI
7 SCARABOID SEAL WITH A HERO RIDING A HIPPOCAMP 23 8 STATUETTE OF A WINGED GORGON 24 9 FOLDING VICTORY TRIPOD ADORNED BY THE LABORS OF HERCULES 33 10
RED-FIGURE PYXIS WITH A GRIFFIN 42
11 NECKLACE WITH GORGONEION 44
12 HELMET OF THE ARES BORGHESE STATUE TYPE 48 13 APPLIQUÉ WITH A BATTLE OF AN ARIMASP AND A GRIFFIN 54 14 EMBLEMA REPRESENTING SKYLLA 57 15 APPLIQUÉ WITH VENUS AND TRITON 61 16 GRIFFIN PROTOME 64 17 STATUETTE OF A SPHINX 71 18
FIGURAL VASE IN THE FORM OF PHRIXUS AND HELLE 72
19 SEAL ENGRAVED WITH HERALDIC GRIFFINS 76
PEGASUS FINIAL Greek, 7th – 6th century B.C. Bronze H: 10.8 cm (4.2 cm)
Pegasus was a winged horse that came into the world after Medusa’s head was cut off by Perseus. This immortal creature was famous for the many battles it rode into including the fight against the fire breathing monster Khimaira. Perseus then led Pegasus up to heaven where Zeus struck the hero down back to earth but allowed for Pegasus to fly up and then serve Zeus by becoming his thunder bearer.
The divine stallion with long legs and a straight tail is depicted striding forward with its left legs advanced, the genitalia indicated. Its elongated sickle-shaped wings are pulled back over the truncated torso, curving gently at their tips; the details of the feathers on the wings and mane were summarily incised. The head has the eyes and nostrils articulated, with the mouth slightly agape. The figure is placed on a narrow, rectangular, integral base terminating in two downturned tabs, atop a cylindrical shaft, which could have been part of the rein-guard of a chariot.
CONDITION Surface covered with oxides; the left side thigh battered. PROVENANCE Ex- Lewis B. Cullman collection, acquired on the New York art market in 1992.
BLACK-FIGURE AMPHORA WITH A SIREN AND ANIMALS Attributed to the Ampersand Painter Greek, Corinthian, ca. 585-575 B.C. Terracotta H: 22 cm (8.6 in)
This elegant and cleanly potted black-figure amphora has a great precision of forms which undoubtedly refers to a metallic prototype. Its complex pictorial design was made by incision lines and added red for the details. The shoulder frieze represents a standing siren with displayed wings flanked by two swans, grazing goat, panther and bird, with several rosettes and dots in the field. This frieze is separated by thin horizontal bands, two of them dotted. The central frieze has large stylized floral motifs flanked by panthers, a pair of grazing goats and two further panthers, also with rosettes and dots in the field, and a broad band below. The decoration of the lower part of the vase consists of rays beautifully rendered above the foot, which has concentric circles underneath.
Only about fifteen vases have been attributed to the Ampersand Painter, who was active ca. 600575 B.C. A contemporary of the Dodwell Painter, a leading artist of Corinthian vase production of the period, he is thought to have worked out of the same workshop. The designs are characterized exclusively by friezes of animals, real and imaginary. The painter’s trademarks include small, compact feline faces with staring eyes, grazing goats, and dotted floral stems.
CONDITION Complete, no restoration; layers of deposits inside the neck, around the lip, on top of handles, underneath the foot; painting partially abraded and chipped especially on side B. PROVENANCE Münzen und Medaillen, Basel, 13 December 1969, lot 41; Ex- European private collection, Germany.
CAMEO WITH A HEAD OF MEDUSA Greek, Hellenistic, 2nd – 1st century B.C. Blue chalcedony D: 5 cm (1.97 in)
A masterpiece of cameo technique, this gem carved in high relief from a large piece of blue chalcedony is spectacular both in quality of stone modeling and intensity of the color. It has a slightly convex and polished back and a thin edge intended for framing: the cameo was inlaid into a pendant or a wreath made from precious metal. Commonly in the iconography of Medusa, this gorgon has small wings on the top of her head; the hair locks forming a thick, semicircular mass around her face are intertwined with the snakes, a pair of which is knotted below her chin. What is unusual and rather surprising, it that the face copies typical features of the likeness of Alexander the Great, with a large straight nose, the eyes set deep under the bulging brows, a furrowed forehead, and especially, the anastole, the upswept central curls above the forehead. When viewed in profile, the resemblance with Alexander’s portrait is even more striking. The detailed sculptural modeling of the shapes, along with the clarity of the incised lines and the high polishing of stone, mark an outstanding degree of craftsmanship in this artwork. Medusa, one of the three Gorgon sisters, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, was born a beautiful mortal girl who worshipped the goddess Athena. Unfortunately, her beauty attracted the likings of Poseidon and resulted in her losing
her sacred virginity, and, therefore, disgracing Athena. This godly feud is one of many where a mortal is punished for the actions of the gods. A curse was bestowed onto her by the wrath of Athena. This curse left Medusa renowned for having hair made up of snakes and a gaze that turns men into stone. The fact that Medusa was mortal allowed for the hero Perseus to cut off her head and later use it as a weapon before giving it as an homage to Athena. Through the beheading of Medusa two sons sprouted out, the winged horse Pegasus and a giant named Chrysaor. Although this representation belongs to the “beautified” type (as opposed to the hideous archaic type, characterized by a large open mouth with hanging tongue, visible fangs, a pug nose, and snakes substituting the hair), her expression is hard and menacing, with its furrowed brow, angry eyes and scowling mouth. Today, archaeologists tend to associate representations of hideous creatures or hybrid beasts, like the gorgon, sphinxes, sirens, with prophylactic and apotropaic functions. Worn as a pendant or as a ring’s bezel of smaller size, similar cameos may have been carried to protect its owner from bad luck or harmful influences. Combined with the features of the divinized Alexander, this cameo would have had even more significant protective powers.
“ the curse bestowed onto her by the wrath of Athena left Medusa renowned for having hair made up of snakes and a gaze that turns men into stone.”
CONDITION Excellent condition. A few chips; the upper part of the left wing is broken off; some deposits retained in the carvings. PROVENANCE Ex- Swiss private collection, Bern-Lucerne, acquired circa 1950-1960; Galerie Habermacher, Lucerne, 1988; Ex- Swiss private collection, acquired from above in 1995.
SIREN PENDANT Etruscan, ca. 500 – 400 B.C. Amber L: 6.6 cm (2.5 in)
An impressively large piece of amber with a finely carved image of a siren, which has the head of a young girl and the body of a bird. These sirens were handmaidens of the goddess Persephone but after her abduction Demeter transformed them giving them wings to search for the lost goddess. Hades was responsible for stealing Persephone from Earth and bringing her to the Underworld. This inhibited the sirens from finding her and ultimately settled on the island of Anthemoessa where they would target passing sailors. The siren used a bewitching song to drag sailors to their deaths. The depiction of the hybrid creature is close to the image known for the Greek and Etruscan vase painting of the previous period, where it was typically rendered with raised and spread wings. Here, only essential features have been chosen to define the fantastic being: a head in profile appears against the wing. A prominent outline of the face and neck is combined with delicately indicated striations marking the locks of the hairstyle. The craftsmen intentionally omitted the detailed representation of feathers at the upper part of the wing in aim to leave the surface clear to distinguish the head and facial features. The harmony and sense of detail disposition in the design of this artwork are truly remarkable. For millennia, amber, a fossilized tree resin, was a known material in jewelry of the Mediterranean. Available mostly through the trade with the Northern European areas along the Baltic Sea, amber was praised for its natural beauty.
It also attracted great attention from Greek and Latin writers and naturalists. Pliny the Elder dedicated a considerable discussion to amber quoting, among others, what Nicias stated on its nature: “… it is a liquid produced by the rays of the sun; and that these rays, at the moment of the sun's setting, striking with the greatest force upon the surface of the soil, leave upon it an unctuous sweat, which is carried off by the tides of the Ocean, and thrown up upon the shores of Germany” (Natural History 37. 11). An object of luxury, amber was specifically valued for its transparency and color (Pliny names the best kind of amber which has “a brightness like that of fire” and resembles the Falernian wine) and it was also qualified for the properties and deriving remedies to support human wellness.
CONDITION Surface weathered; a few chips and cracks; traces of old adhesive on the bottom; a hole for suspension on the upper right side. PROVENANCE Ex- Ferrucio Bolla collection (1911-1984), Lugano, Switzerland; Ex- Swiss private collection.
STATUETTE OF SKYLLA Greek, Hellenistic, 3rd – 2nd century B.C. Terracotta, remains of pigments H: 28.6 cm (11.2 in)
Skylla, the fantastic creature imaged as halfhuman, half-beast, with human legs substituted with long curling tails of a dragon covered with the fish scales, appears as a beautiful maiden with a charming and pleasant expression on her face which has regular features; the hairstyle is carefully arranged: the hair parted above the forehead is spread over her bare shoulders in long tresses. The young girl appears very attractive, however, the beauty hides the danger of her powers. The conus-shaped base treated with the incised wavy pattern indicate the water element supporting the figure of the female monster emerging from the sea. The myth of Skylla is documented in Homer’s Odyssey (XII, 73 ff.). The sea monster, with the head, torso and voice of a pretty young woman and the lower body formed by twelve serpentine fishtails, both coiled with the tails upraised, with six dog protomes springing from her hips, was originally a nymph turned into a hideous and terrifying monster by Circe (or by Amphitrite, according to the versions reported by the ancient mythologists). After her metamorphosis, the young woman lived in a cave on the Italian coast of the Strait of Messina. From there, she terrorized sailors, capturing them on their ships and devouring them alive. For Homer, Skylla was one of the many adversities which Odysseus, King of Ithaca, had to deal with on his
way home, after the Trojan War; during this episode, the hero saw several of his companions perish in a terrifying manner, without being able to save them. In this present and few other examples, the monster’s waist is not surrounded by dogs, only the fish fins are arranged like a belt with a central floral element. Skylla is represented upright, with two hands grasping the rudder of a ship and probably the anchor or oar, the reminders of her attack. The composition of the figure with her arms as well as the serpentine coils extended to the sides is symmetrical and well-balanced. The remains of pigments (blue, yellow) testify that the piece was initially painted and had both a vivid and decorative appearance.
CONDITION Reassembled parts of the conical base, lower right arm with hand; left hand and lower arm; right caudal fin; missing left side caudal fin, parts of the attributes in both hands; traces of color over the abraded slip; two test holes at the back of head and right buttock; an authentic round hole for firing in the middle of the back. PROVENANCE Ex- estate of Dr. Jacob Hirsch (1874- 1955), New York; Ex- Tom Verzi collection, New York; Ex- Sheldon and Barbara Breitbart collection, New York-Arizona, acquired in 1966.
GROUP OF THREE HYBRID SILENI Roman, 1st century B.C. – 1st century A.D. Silver H: 8 cm (3.1 in)
These three silver figurines have been used as the feet to support a tripod or a candelabrum; for this reason, they were executed as solid casts. Typical in classical furniture, the feet are shaped as feline paws, but the imagination led the craftsman to enrich the design with a hybrid image, the winged head of Silenus. The bald head of the older companion to the wine-god Dionysus, with two horns and pointed animal ears, crowned with an ivy wreath, is seen with a long beard coming to his chest , and fused with beautifully articulated wings of a bird. The hair strands and the feathers have been marked by deep incised lines. For the coloristic effect, these shining silver feet could have been attached to a bronze table as well as a piece of furniture entirely made of silver. There is no doubt that they belonged to the class of luxury objects, which were destined to decorate the interior of the residence of a wealthy Roman.
CONDITION A few scratches; some oxidation and tarnishing. PROVENANCE Private collection, acquired on the European art market, 1992.
SCARABOID SEAL WITH A HERO RIDING A HIPPOCAMP Greek, 4th century B.C. Banded agate L: 2.3 cm (0.9 in)
This stunningly carved seal of a scaraboid shape (same as a scarab with one convex side but lacking the beetle’s anatomy) is an extraordinary, beautiful piece of banded agate. It has several circular white bands clearly visible from all sides through the layers of dark stone. The seal is also highly important for the iconography of Greek heroes; the engraved figure represents a young man holding what looks like weapons and riding on a hippocamp (a mythological hybrid creature combining the features of a horse and a fish). The choice of the stone for this carving could not be better as it looks as if the seahorse floats over the waves imitated by the agate bands. In Greek representations, the hippocampi appear in the cortege of the sea god Poseidon carrying his chariot. Mounted by Nereids, they also participate in the festive procession accompanying Aphrodite, the sea-born goddess. A young man in this representation could be the Greek hero Taras, son of Poseidon, a mythic founder of Taras, (Latin Tarentum, modern Taranto), a Greek colony in Magna Graecia. The story tells that Taras was shipwrecked and rescued by his father who sent him a dolphin. The dolphin brought Taras to the shore, where the hero founded the city named after him. A similar story is told on Phalanthos, who suffered a shipwreck and was brought ashore by a dolphin (Pausanias, Description of Greece X 10, 6-8; X 13, 10; Strabo Geography VI 3, 2). A leader of the Spartans, he was considered as a historical founder of Taras.
Since the Late Archaic period, the city minted coins representing Taras riding a dolphin on the obverse, some coins have a depiction of a hippocamp on the reverse. The same image of the dolphin rider is also associated with Phalanthos. The rider holds attributes, and they vary greatly: they could be symbols of his authority over the sea (a little hippocamp, cuttle-fish, polypus with tentacles, octopus), or symbols of naval victory such as an acrostalium (naval trophy), aphlastron (the upward curving stern of a warship), a figure of Nike; they could be weapons such as a shield, helmet, bow, also a whip, a trident. Here the hero is brandishing a ball-andchain flail, which was not used as a weapon in antiquity. Most probably, the depiction is of the agricultural tool, which would not be foreign to the meaning of a divine hero as a protector and provider of the city’s prosperity (whose attribute on coins is sometimes a bunch of grapes or a corn-ear).
CONDITION A few chips and cracks. PROVENANCE Ex- French private collection; Swiss private collection, acquired in 2009, accompanied by French export license.
STATUETTE OF A WINGED GORGON Greek, Archaic, middle of the 6th century B.C. Bronze H: 15.2 cm (6 in) – W: 17.2 cm (6.7 in)
This masterwork is composed of various soldered elements (wings, statuette, base). Finishings and incisions were made after the casting when cold. The statuette is attached to a thin, flat base. The artist has skillfully achieved the balance of the figure around many axes formed by the lines of the arms, shoulders, thighs, lower legs and feet. The belt, which emphasizes the slender and feminine waist of the monster, and the cascade of vertical folds generated by the fabric of the chiton help in structuring the figure. This accurate and rigid scheme also characterizes the facial shape and features; surmounted by triangular bangs, the face follows the vertical axis of the forehead, nose and tongue (even extending down to the knee placed on the ground); horizontally, it follows the lines of the brows, eyes and mouth. The care taken by the artist in the structure of the ornament speaks in favor of a Doric origin; this object was probably produced in a workshop in a Peloponnesian or colonial town (Sicily, Magna Graecia), but whose metropolis was located on the Greek mainland. The Gorgon is represented in the usual iconography of the last phases of the Archaic period. Her head is oriented frontally, like her chest, while her legs are seen in profile; she wears a short chiton, fastened at the waist with a belt and provided with short sleeves; her position arms and knees are bent almost at right angles – is a well attested iconographic convention of this period, which reflects a running movement. Here, the idea of swift and light movement is
accentuated by the span of the widely spread wings and perhaps also by the slight difference in their size (the right wing is a little smaller). The sole of the left foot, the bent right knee and the ball and toes of the right foot are soldered to a narrow, slightly curved base. The curve probably corresponded to the shape of this figure’s support, whose nature remains unknown. Among the closest parallels for this Gorgon, one should mention the figures used to decorate the upper edges or the handles of the large bronze kraters from the Archaic period; here, the ornament was attached to the support by the wings (by the inner tips and perhaps by vertical, symmetrical stems, whose superficial traces can still be noticed just above the elbows), while the base was placed approximately on the shoulder of the vessel. On two of the most famous vessels of this kind, discovered at Vix and Trebenista, the Gorgon appears as a pattern at the base of the handles, but she is represented as a simple bust. In two other cases, a handle excavated at Martonocha, now in the State Hermitage Museum, in St. Petersburg, and a specimen from the former De Clerq Collection, housed in the Louvre, in Paris, the monster shows many affinities with our example, both in the type (the only notable differences being the position of the arms and the presence of a second pair of wings which descend to the ground) and in the chronology, whereas the style features greater differences (the figures look flatter, while their structure is less rigid).
“ The artistic quality of this piece is virtually unequalled.”
The artistic quality of this piece is virtually unequalled, even in the panorama of the Archaic period. Compared to closest parallels, one may note the elaborate and precise modeling, especially for the head and the face, which is not simply flat, but partially shaped in the round (nose and chin in relief, prominent cheekbones, bulging eyes). These features usually recall a grotesque mask, even more frightening when seen from the front; the Gorgon opens her eyes wide, puffs her cheeks out as if she was whistling and opens her mouth to stick her tongue out and show her teeth. The hair forms wavy, triangular bangs on the forehead, while in the back, where it is perfectly rendered, it is arranged in horizontal, engraved locks. The anatomical details of the body are represented by a nuanced and precise modeling, with muscular and well rounded shapes like those of an athlete, especially for the shoulders, buttocks and legs (musculature around the knees, calves, ankle bones); only the breasts evoke the female gender of the Gorgon. With these details, the artist has perfectly expressed the fears that this monster would inspire in her contemporaries. In the Greek imagination, the Gorgons were three sisters of hideous appearance, who embodied the most terrifying aspects of death and the supernatu-
ral world; at that time, the circular face - the gorgoneion - was almost always represented frontally. Sometimes framed by snakes and provided with wild boar tusks, the gorgoneion appeared everywhere: on temple pediments (Temple of Artemis, Corfu, for instance), on weapons (shield episemon), on funerary steles, but also on everyday objects, such as metal or clay containers and furniture items. It had an apotropaic and protective purpose, since the presence of the Gorgon (or her mask) was supposed to turn away evil forces and divert them on to potential enemies; unfortunately, the exact reason for the presence of a Gorgon on kraters, the archetypal wine vessels of Greek repertoire, is unknown. Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon, is the most famous of the three sisters, who had the power to turn men to stone with their eyes. The sisters act in one of the most important stories of the Archaic period, the myth of Perseus; the hero from Argos, having accomplished his feat of killing Medusa with the help of Athena (his protectress, daughter of Zeus) and Hermes, gave the goddess the head of the Gorgon. From this mythological episode onwards, repeatedly represented in Archaic iconography (black-figure pottery, architecture, etc.), the frightening mask of the monster adorned the center of Athena’s aegis.
CONDITION Intact and remarkably preserved; traces of light corrosion, especially near the extremities (hands, wingtips). Full cast statuette, perfectly completed and also modeled behind; backs of the wings simply flat and smooth. Surface covered with a beautiful, uniform pale green patina. Impressive size and weight. PROVENANCE Ex- US private collection, acquired on the London art market, 26 April 1996.
BIBLIOGRAPHY On the two closest parallels, see: Aus den Schatzkammern Eurasiens: Meisterwerke antiker Kunst, Zurich, 1993, p. 156, no. 76 (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). DE RIDDER A., Collection De Clercq: Tome III, Les bronzes, Paris, 1905, pp. 35-37, no. 423, pl. 58 (Louvre, Paris). On Gorgon-shaped ornaments adorning the handles of kraters, see: ROLLEY C., Les vases de bronze de l’archaïsme récent en Grande-Grèce, Naples, 1982, pp. 63 ff., pl. 31, 39-41. On other ornamental Gorgons, see: DE RIDDER A., Les bronzes antiques du Louvre: Tome I, Les figurines, Paris, 1913, p. 20, no. 97. FURTWÄNGLER A., Die Bronzen und die übrigen kleineren Funde von Olympia, Berlin, 1890, p. 25, no. 78, pl. VIII. JANTZEN U., Bronzewerkstätten in Grossgriechenland und Sizilien, Berlin, 1937, pp. 69-70, nos. 132-134, pl. 32. On the iconography of Gorgons, see: Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. IV, Zurich-Munich, 1988, s.v. Gorgo/ Gorgones, pp. 285-330.
FOLDING VICTORY TRIPOD ADORNED BY THE LABORS OF HERCULES Roman, 3rd – 4th century A.D. Bronze H: 96.5 cm (38 in)
This monumental bronze tripod is formed by three vertical legs terminating in removable bases shaped as feline paws. The top of each leg has a flat rectangular base plate surmounted by a sculptural group, with a robust L-shaped hook on the interior side, which served for the suspension of a basin or brazier of semi-spherical form supplied with loops. The X-shaped braces are fixed to hinges above and square sliding bands below. The front panels of the legs are engraved with a geometric pattern of rosettes and dots, while the transverse braces are delicately engraved with plant motifs and secured with conical pivot points. One leg, which for this reason should be considered central in the entire composition, is further distinguished by an attachment with complex sculptural decoration. It consists of two superimposed figures. A sea centaur, who is bearing a branch of coral and preparing to throw a rock, is surmounted by a globe with a figure of winged Victory. She is dressed in a belted chiton fastened at one shoulder, and she is bearing a palm branch and laurel wreath.
The tops of the tripod legs are decorated by three removable bronze sculptural groups which represent Hercules in three of his labors. On the left, he struggles with the Ceryneian Hind, an animal with golden antlers and brazen hooves; Hercules had to chase the animal for a year before he could capture it (the base plate of this sculpture preserves a hook for the suspension of a basin). On the right side, the second sculpture depicts Hercules in conflict with the Cretan Bull, which had once ravaged that island. The one in the center shows Hercules capturing one of the Mares of Diomedes, animals trained to eat human flesh. The figure of bearded hero is clad in the lion’s skin (which reminds of his first labor, the slaying of the Nemean Lion); his weapon was a club. The sculptures have been cast and then chased to add fine details and delineated muscles and bodily features. They represent both the world of sophisticated Graeco-Roman iconography and the vigor of Roman provincial art, which followed standard iconography without loss of originality and feeling.
“ The famous labors of Hercules adorning the tripod are number 3: Capture the Golden Hind, number 7: Capture the Cretan Bull, and number 8: Bring Back the Mares of Diomedes.”
number 3: Capture the Golden Hind 34
Since the very early period, tripods became significant objects in rituals of the Mediterranean. The tripod was considered a sacred object of Apollo; in his sanctuary at Delphi, the oracular pronouncements were issued by the Pythian priestess using a tripod as her seat. As valuable objects, the tripods were designated as the winner’s prize (already mentioned by Homer in the episode of funeral games in honor of Patroclus, Iliad, XXIII). They were used as supports of basins (filled with water for lustration or wine for libation); braziers for sacrifices in sanctuaries or simply to warm the household; they could also accommodate a tabletop. The mechanism of a folding tripod was designed with the intention to hold basins/braziers of various dimensions. Usually made of bronze, some could be executed of precious silver (testified by the finds in the Hildesheim hoard; 1st century A.D.) and gold, and even studded with jewels (found in the royal settings: the Pompe and
the great symposium-tent of Ptolemy II Philadelphos in Alexandria described by Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae, V, 196-199). The folding tripod can also be disassembled and is fully collapsible, in this case ready for transport. It may be hypothesized that the present tripod was employed for a periodic festival celebrating Hercules or, more likely, belonged to a military unit such as an auxiliary cohort or ala dedicated to Hercules. As such, the tripod could be packed and transported by mule or wagon and quickly set up wherever camp was established. In the Imperial period, the cult of the divinized hero Hercules was linked to the cult of the mighty Roman emperor. Considering the sculptural program of this tripod, one can recognize an important ideological message: the victory of Roman civilization over the barbarian world, the same as the victory of Hercules over the wild beasts.
number 7: Capture the Cretan Bull 37
” A sea centaur, who is bearing a branch of coral and preparing to throw a rock, is surmounted by a globe with a figure of winged Victory.“
CONDITION Surface covered with some encrustation and oxides in places; missing are two suspension hooks, right lower arm of Hercules with the club in the scene with the Mare, Hercules’ club and the left foreleg of the Hind, Hercules’ club in the scene with the Bull; one broken brace is fixed; arm of Victory is broken and affixed with a pin; two feet are cast replicas. PROVENANCE Ex- US private collection, Illinois, acquired prior to 2012.
number 8: Bring Back the Mares of Diomedes 40
RED-FIGURE PYXIS WITH A GRIFFIN Greek, Attic, 5th Century B.C. Terracotta H: 4.4 cm (1.7 in) – D: 6.7 cm (2.6 in)
The pyxis, a lidded box to contain small items, has a precise shape of completely symmetrical design: the torus foot-ring in two degrees and the convex lid corresponding the foot in a similar molding, they frame a slightly concave side. The top was painted in the red-figure technique: within a reserved contoured border there is a figure of a griffin, in an attacking pose facing left. The mythological creature has enormous eagle wings pulled back over the powerful lion torso were painted white while the individual feathers and other details of anatomy are indicated by lines. A group of white dots marks the curving ground line. Two Greek letters, a delta and a psi, were incised underneath the base and the lid. Griffins were famous for guarding a treasure of gold in the mountains of Scythia and were also famed to be in conflict with the one eyed Arimaspoi who sought to steal from them.
CONDITION The lower edge of the lid damaged, a few recollected fragments, traces of adhesive; the body reassembled from two halves, with a few recollected small parts at the top, two chips on foot. PROVENANCE Sotheby's New York, 25 June 1992, lot 59; Ex- US private collection, New York.
NECKLACE WITH GORGONEION Greek, early 5th century B.C. Gold, glass L: 29.8 cm (11.7 in) – D of pendant: 2.2 cm (0.8 in)
This necklace is formed of beads of various shapes and colors and a circular pendant. The pendant is hollow, formed of two soldered halves, with the edge imitating large granules. A head of Medusa dominates the composition of the front side. The face retains features of hideous Medusa’s appearance of the Archaic period characterized by a large open mouth with hanging tongue, visible fangs, a pug nose, and snakes substituting her hair, with her hard and menacing expression, but the narrow nose and regular eyebrows suggest a date in the Classical period. Working in fine repoussé allowed the craftsman to reproduce such details as individual hair of the eyebrows and a rough tongue. The pendant has a wide loop decorated with twisted wire forming leaves separated by granules.
Other sheet gold beads have globular, lentil, and bud shapes. The bud and lentil beads have similar design of the loops with leaves and miniature granulation. Some of the globular beads have apertures on both sides for a string, but others are designed for suspension with the help of two miniature loops of twisted wire. The gold beads are alternating with the glass which present the stratified eye design. They are spherical in shape and formed of transparent dark blue and opaque white. The number of the eyes is uneven, three, which might be considered by the owner as magical. The presence of the gorgoneion would increase the apotropaic powers of the jewelry.
CONDITION Some deposits in places; glass beads worn; dents on gold beads; a fracture above Medusa’s tongue. PROVENANCE Ex- Fred Leighton (1932-2017) private collection, New York, acquired in 2001; Private collection, acquired in 2014.
HELMET OF THE ARES BORGHESE STATUE TYPE Roman, 1st – 2nd century A.D. Marble H: 28.2 cm (11.1 in)
Rare and exquisite, this helmet with decorative reliefs constituted an important part of the marble statue designated as the Ares Borghese type. One of the most famous in the history of Classical sculpture, the Ares Borghese statue in the Louvre was purchased by Napoleon with the Borghese collection in Rome in 1807. It represents a standing youth, nude except for a helmet (according to the reconstruction of the prototype’s composition, he held a spear and a shield in his left arm). The youth stands with his free leg advanced diagonally and the head inclined to the side and glancing to the ground. With such a pose, the reliefs on the helmet are clearly presented. The decoration of the present helmet is classified as belonging to the pseudo-Attic type, which has been in use since the early Hellenistic period. The representation does not have cheek-guards and the visor terminating in volutes has a peaked frontlet. The linear pattern is combined with figural and ornamental motives: there is a heraldic composition of two dogs on either side of a central palmette with scrolling tendrils; the half palmettes adorn the peak and are placed above volutes. The design is based
on strict and precise symmetry. As for the dogs with long snouts, short ears, long tails, and sleek bodies, they were identified as of Lakonian, or Spartan, breed. Their presence on the helmet of Ares was also explained in regard of the fragment by Pausanias, in which the writer reports on the sacrifice at Sparta of puppies dedicated to Ares (Description of Greece 3, 14, 9). In 1985, Professor Cornelius C. Vermeule III said that the dogs carved on this helmet are very similar to the one carved on the breastplate of the Prima Porta statue of Augustus. The figural decoration on each side of the cranium is identical including the representations of winged griffins. A griffin is a mythological creature with a lion’s body, the beak and wings of an eagle. They were famous for guarding a treasure comprising of large amounts of gold in the mountains of Scythia. The griffins were also famed to conflict with the one eyed Arimaspoi who sought to steal the mountains of gold the griffins guarded. The griffin represents strength, courage and leadership and are featured on several military helmets.
“ In 1985, Professor Cornelius C. Vermeule III said that the dogs carved on this helmet are very similar to the one carved on the breastplate of the Prima Porta statue of Augustus.”
The anatomical details of the beaks, paws and feathers of these fantastic beasts were skillfully rendered in low relief. The iconographical motive became popular in the middle of the 5th century B.C., with the appearance of griffins on the helmet of Athena Parthenos by Phidias. A depiction of a standard Attic helmet decorated with griffins is found on a red-figure vase of ca. 440 B.C. attributed to the Lykaon Painter (the Metropolitan Museum of Art). The rear cranium of the marble helmet supplied with a neck protector was decorated with half palmettes on each side. Presumably, a flattened zone on the top and a drilled hole were prepared for the affixed crest made separately (and, probably, from a different material); another hole in the lower rim of the neck protector would have been drilled for the same reason. In some variants, the support of the crest is shaped as a figure of a crouching sphinx.
CONDITION Surface weathered, encrusted, and scratched; the rim is chipped; central part of the lower peaked frontlet missing; two holes for the crest attachment on top of the cranium and on the neck protector. PROVENANCE Ex- McAlpine Ancient Art, London; Ex- US private collection, Illinois, acquired in 1985.
APPLIQUÉ WITH A BATTLE OF AN ARIMASP AND A GRIFFIN Greek, South Italian, Tarentine, second half of the 4th century B.C. Gilt terracotta L: 15.8 cm (6.2 in)
One of the best preserved Tarentine terracotta appliqués with gilding belongs to this thematical group representing the combat between the griffins and the Arimaspi. Both being mythological creatures, the griffin, the fantastic beast combining a lion’s body with an eagle’s head and wings, was thought to guard treasures and gold in remote lands, and the Arimaspi, the legendary one-eyed people, who inhabited northern Scythia who sought to steal the gold the griffins guarded. The warrior wears a long-sleeve tunic, short mantle, pants, boots and a helmetlike cap (with lower parts protecting the chin and the mouth); he is kneeling on one leg under the fierce attack of the beast but courageously defends himself raising his sword and keeping his balance by leaning against his shield (pelta). The composition of this dynamic combat scene is skillfully designed. As a framework with no background, the fragile extended parts of the clay figures needed to be connected thus preventing breakage (the griffin’s tail and the wing, a tree-trunk and the griffin’s chest, the wing and the mantle, the shield and the ground. The modeled uneven surface of the ground and the tree-trunk are details to depict the wild landscape. In Greek thought, the Arimaspi were imagined as Dionysiac servants, and their combat with the griffins was regarded as a symbolic itinerary from death to immortality.
The hole on the lower wing of the griffin made before the firing of the clay was intended for the affixing of the relief to a wooden panel of a sarcophagus, the design of which was influenced by the monumental architectural terracotta sculptures of ancient Southern Italy. The abundant remains of gold foil show that the entire surface of the relief was gilded; this contributed greatly to the intense polychromatic effect of the artwork.
CONDITION Chips on the upper right wing and head of the griffin. PROVENANCE Ex- N. Koutoulakis, Paris, acquired on the Swiss art market, 1975; Ex- Swiss private collection, 1983.
EMBLEMA REPRESENTING SKYLLA Greek, Hellenistic, ca. 3rd – 2nd century B.C. Gilded silver D: 16.9 cm (6.7 in)
This extraordinary emblema was hammered from a silver plaque and then decorated in repoussé from the inside to represent the figural scene. For the two-colored effect, gilding was applied to the background (sky and sea), to the body of the sea monster and to Skylla’s skirt of acanthus leaves. Circular in shape, but perfectly flat, the emblema is bordered by a ring that was made separately and adorned by two incised lines. The object is remarkable, both for its weight and for its diameter (well above the average size), classifying this example in the group of the largest specimens attested. The scene, which appears in high relief, represents an ancient myth documented in Homer’s Odyssey (Odyssey, XII, 73 ff.). The sea monster, with the head and torso of a pretty young woman and the lower body formed by two serpentine fishtails, both coiled with the tails upraised, with three dog protomes springing from her hips, is Skylla, the nymph turned into a hideous and terrifying monster by Circe (or by Amphitrite, according to the versions reported by the mythologists). After her metamorphosis, the young woman lived in a cave on the Italian coast of the Strait of Messina. From there, she terrorized sailors, capturing them on their ships and devouring them alive. For Homer, Skylla was one of the many adversities which Odysseus, King
of Ithaca, had to deal with on his way home, after the Trojan War; during this episode, the hero saw several of his companions perish in a terrifying manner, without being able to save them. In our example, Skylla is represented upright, grasping the rudder of a ship in her hands. Her serpentine coils enclose two sailors, whose bodies are dislocated, while three dogs’ heads appear between the large leaves forming her skirt. The sky is rendered by regular dots, while the waves of the sea form a lively surface in low relief. This scene, already attested in Attic red-figure pottery, was very popular in the western Greek colonies in the 4th century B.C. and in the Hellenistic period. Its meaning was often related to the funeral sphere, since Skylla appears either as an appliqué ornament for an askos (pottery vessel for storing lamp oil) or as a painted subject exclusively intended for tombs. Structurally, the composition perfectly corresponds to a circular support. Most often used to decorate mirror lids, such a disk-shaped element was also frequently intended to be placed at the center of a phiale (libation bowl) or on smaller knobs, interpreted as phalerae for a horse bit. Given its imposing size, one can imagine that our example had a decorative purpose on an object perhaps as large as a piece of furniture.
The most famous representation of the Skylla myth appears later than these images of minor art: it is the colossal group known through the examples from the grotto at Sperlonga (in modern-day Campania, north of Naples), dated to the early 1st century A.D. (Tiberian period), but whose original representation probably dates back to the 2nd century B.C.
CONDITION Complete and in excellent condition; ancient rivets still in place on the edge; cracks and minor damage. PROVENANCE Ex – UK private collection, London, acquired prior to 1962; Ex- Maître J.C. private collection, Geneva, 2014. BIBLIOGRAPHY Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. VII, Zurich-Munich, 1994, s.v. Skylla, p. 1142, nos. 52 ff. MERTENS J.R. et al., Metropolitan Museum of Art: Greece and Rome, New York, 1987, pp. 80-81, no. 60. REEDER E.D. (ed.), L’or des rois scythes, Paris, 2001, pp. 288 ff., nos. 141-144 (phalerae for a horse bit).
APPLIQUÉ WITH VENUS AND TRITON Byzantine, 5th century A.D. Gilt bronze H: 20 cm (7.8 in)
This beautiful group is composed of two figures: a triton with a nude, human torso and the tail of a fish, with two small bull’s horns visible in his long curly hair, who is carrying a young woman with her lower body covered by a large cloak. The two objects she holds in her hands (in her right, a heart-shaped fan, in her left, a round mirror) help identify her as Aphrodite (or Venus), the Greco-Roman goddess of love. The treatment of the body, with soft, slender proportions, is not without sensuality. Also present in the soft, rounded rendering of the neck and face, the transparency of her cloak, which allows to see the thighs and knees of the goddess. She has long hair, arranged in thick curly locks, two long locks fall on her shoulders. Her facial features are young and ideal. The sea monster, with his robust masculine torso, holds a dolphin in his raised right hand, a symbol of the seaspace. The incised chevrons, indicating scales, decorate the sinuous curve of his body, his tail ends in a tri-point fin. In Greek mythology, Triton is a marine god, son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, known for his contest with Heracles (the hero’s twelfth labor); he often accompanied his father in depictions of battle. The iconography of tritons (mermen), the male equivalent of the nereids, are derived from that of Triton: these tritons are young creatures depicted with serpentine tails and wild expressions, who hold conchs, fish, or oars
as attributes; they are sea-dwelling and often accompany other divinities and sea-dwellers (Poseidon, Thetis, Erotes, and Nereids). Aphrodite, the goddess of love, who, according to Greek myth, was born from the sea foam in Cyprus, is depicted, when she is shown in the sea, carried on the back of one or many tritons. This scene of Aphrodite borne on the backs of tritons enjoyed a long period of popularity in Classical art, mainly in the representations on floor mosaics and fresco panels, and in the metalwork of Byzantine art. Even during a period when Christianity was becoming the predominant religion throughout the Mediterranean basin, certain subjects from the polytheistic tradition remained popular in art and in iconography (both for public and private works): in early Christian art, images of Heracles and Aphrodite are prevalent. In the 4th century A.D., for example, this subject appears on the cover of a silver box from the Esquiline, as well as on three of the appliqués decorating a silver tripod from Polgárdi (Hungary).
The applique was wrought in a few separate pieces which were then soldered and finished by a craftsman expert in cold work (the triton’s body was made in two parts, the torso and tail, which were fixed to the left and right of Venus’ hips, explaining the elongated form of his body). The back of the piece is completely hollow and still has traces of nails, which were used to attach the appliqué to its ancient support. The two figures modeled in high relief are not sculpted in the same plane; the Venus’ body on the foreground is slightly turned towards the triton behind her so that their eyes meet in the distance.
CONDITION The state of preservation of this applique is remarkable; the surface, with its traces of brown patina, is still partially covered with an ochre-bronze substance which served to prepare the surface of the piece for gilding. Despite its artistic finesse, the piece is heavy and imposing. PROVENANCE Ex- European private collection, acquired on the German art market in 2000; Ex- Maître J.C. private collection, Geneva, 2009.
GRIFFIN PROTOME Greek, Orientalizing period, second quarter of the 7th century B.C. Hammered bronze H: 23 cm (9 in)
This spectacular and extremely rare bronze griffin protome is one of the ﬁnest known examples of its type. The head made part of a group of identical protomes that would have been placed around the edge of a circular bronze cauldron. Hammered from a single sheet of bronze in a display of technical virtuosity, this griffin features all the elements of the canonical Orientalizing type: scaly head and neck, tall narrow ears, and wide-open sharply curved beak with protruding tongue. Both the hammered and cast variety of griffin protomes usually measure under 30 cm tall, with this example being slightly larger than average. Long spiral curls engraved with short horizontal strokes along their length fall to either side of the S-curved neck. Stylized wrinkles adorn the lids of wide elegant eyes that were left hollow for the addition of inlays in stone or glass, and a topknot crowns the head. This griffin sports additional cir¬cular protrusions on the center of the forehead and at the temples as well as a rosette at the back of the neck. Numerous details of the face and anatomy have been engraved:
hatching and pinpricks to highlight the contours of the eyes, beak and tongue and U-shaped incisions to further highlight the shape of the lightly modeled scales, which alternate between being smooth and dot¬ted with pinpricks. The griffin was a mythological beast – lion’s body, snake’s neck and tongue, eagle’s head, and hare’s ears – with apotropaic proper¬ties thought to have originated in the Near East. First introduced to the Greeks during the Orientalizing period, the griffin enjoyed prolonged popularity, even into Medieval times.
CONDITION Beautiful dark-green patina; a dent on topknot; damage to the upper beak; cracks at lower edge. PROVENANCE Ex- Mr. M.M. private collection, Las Vegas, acquired prior to 2006.
“ A mythological beast – lion’s body, snake’s neck and tongue, eagle’s head, and hare’s ears.”
STATUETTE OF A SPHINX Greek, Corinth or Sicyon, middle of the 6th century B.C. Bronze H: 6.9 cm (2.7 in)
The sphinx is represented crouching, with her hind legs bent and resting firmly on the ground, while the forelegs were extended. As a hybrid creature, she has the tail and body of a winged lioness and a young female head with delicate and finely detailed features. Her hair, dressed in wavy locks on the forehead, descends low on the neck, where the braids and beads form a mat with rounded contours. She wears a low flared polos on her head. In Greek mythology, the sphinx (originated from Egypt) was a hybrid creature with the head of a woman, the body of a lion and wings. She is known to be vicious and devours anyone who fails to answer her riddle. The sphinx’s end came when Oedipus correctly answered the following riddle: “What is it that has one voice, and is four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” He stated that the answer to the Sphinx's question was man: “As a baby he crawls on all fours, as an adult he is two-footed, and as he grows old, he gains a third foot in the form of a cane”. Because of this, the sphinx threw herself from the acropolis.
Despite the miniature size of this statuette, many anatomical details, incised after cooling the cast bronze, emphasize the features of the fantastic beast. The precise, well-structured, and elegant shapes are distinctive of a Peloponnesian workshop, perhaps in Corinth or Sicyon. Such bronze statuettes probably served as ornaments, especially for containers (kraters or basins) or for bronze tripods. Beside the decorative quality, the presence of a sphinx on all sorts of monuments confirms her eminently apotropaic function in the Greek and Italic world as a guardian and a protector.
CONDITION Beautiful dark-green patina; missing both lower forelegs; minor shallow dents in places; minor spots with oxidation. PROVENANCE Ex- G. McKinley (1945-1996) collection, London and New York; Bonham's, London, 20 April 2004, lot 55.
FIGURAL VASE IN THE FORM OF PHRIXUS AND HELLE Greek, 4th century B.C. Terracotta, pigments, gilding H: 14 cm (5.5 in)
This plastic vase has a contrasting design: the back side, which accommodates a loop ribbed handle placed at the tall neck, is decorated in red-figure technique representing a complex pattern of ornamental scrolls and palmettes, with a band of eggs and dots below. The front side received a plastic shape consisting of finely modeled and painted figures. They are surrounded by scrolls and rosettes forming a baroque frame. The highly decorative design and a delicate shape make this small vessel, a container for perfumed oil, a precious and desirable object. The figural scene of symmetrical composition depicts the famous story of the boy, Phrixus, represented riding a ram over the sea (wavy scallops were plastically modeled at the upper tier of the base) and trying to hold his sister Helle, who slides off the animal. She eventually falls into the sea that the two young people are crossing, which therefore took the name of Hellespont, the modern-day sea of Marmara separating Europe from Asia. The two young people tried to escape their stepmother, Ino (the second wife of their father, Athamas, the Boeotian king), and headed to Colchis where only Phrixus arrived safely. There, he sacrificed the ram, whose skin later became the famous “golden fleece”, the object of the expedition of the Argonauts victoriously led by Jason. According to a variant of the legend, Helle, who had fallen into the sea, would have escaped from drowning: hosted by the Nereids, she was loved by Poseidon, and had a child with him, Paeon.
The wings and elaborate crowns seen on Phrixus and Helle signify their divinization, and the vase could have been dedicated in a sanctuary. The vase, as a miniature sculpture, was made of several parts: modeled on a wheel, by hand and using matrices, they were assembled before firing, and then painted. The remains of color over the white slip (blue in the wings and waves) suggest that the entire front was initially painted, while the rosettes were gilded.
CONDITION Some encrustations on base; two rosettes and a tip of the left wing of Phrixus reattached. PROVENANCE Ex- Count Michał Tyszkiewicz (1828-1897) collection, Rome, acquired prior to 1892; Rollin & Feuardent, Paris, 6 June 1898, lot 24; Ex- Dr. P. Hamonic collection; Ex- Pierre (1900-1993) and Claude Vérité private collection, Paris, acquired between 1930 and 1960. PUBLISHED FROEHNER, W., La collection Tyszkiewicz: choix de monuments antiques avec texte explicatif, Munich, 1892, p. 39, pl. XXXXI. EXHIBITED "La Méditerranée, Cerceau de l'Europe", Maison des Arts et Loisirs de Montbéliard, Atelier des Halles, November 6 - December 15, 1971, no. 69.
SEAL ENGRAVED WITH HERALDIC GRIFFINS Mycenaean, Late Helladic III, ca. 1375-1250 B.C. Carnelian L: 3.1 cm (1.2 in)
This beautiful carnelian of intense color is a large seal of the almond (amygdaloid) shape which has a lengthwise suspension hole. The obverse is engraved with two griffins set in the heraldic composition, each standing with its crested and beaked head turned back. Their forelegs are extended, the hind legs bent, they have raised sickle-shaped wings and the tail upraised and coiled into a spiral. Below each monster there is a trilobate plant, and another above in between them. The perfectly symmetrical composition demonstrates the great ability of an ancient gem cutter to control the developing design while working with the hardstone; the delicate shapes and fine incised lines are characteristic for an assured technique. The reverse is ornamented with three shallow grooves along its length. The gem belongs to a group of stones classified as talismanic by the British archaeologist Sir A. Evans.
CONDITION A few minor chips on the edges and at the left side hole; a natural inclusion on top of the reverse. PROVENANCE Ex- E.S.S. private collection, Germany; Ex- Margret Köser collection, Hamburg, acquired between 19571959; thence by descent.
©2021 PHOENIX ANCIENT ART SA
CREDITS & CONTACTS
Selection of objects Ali Aboutaam and Hicham Aboutaam Project manager Alexander Gherardi, New York Research Phoenix Ancient Art, Geneva Antiquities Research Center, New York
Geneva Ali Aboutaam Michael C. Hedqvist Brenno Bottini Virginie Sélitrenny
Graphic design mostra-design.com, Geneva
Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. 6, rue Verdaine – P.O. Box 3516 1211 Geneva 3, Switzerland T +41 22 318 80 10 F +41 22 310 03 88 E firstname.lastname@example.org
Photography Stefan Hagen, New York Hughes Dubois, Paris and Brussels Maggie Nimkin, New York
New York Hicham Aboutaam Alexander Gherardi Alexander V. Kruglov
With special thanks to Mr. Sebastian Schramm and IE University for being a collaborating institution. Electrum, Exclusive Agent for Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. 725 5th Avenue, 19th floor New York, NY 10022, USA T +1 212 288 7518 F +1 212 288 7121 E email@example.com www.phoenixancientart.com