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Introduction It is a unique occasion when objects of ancient art that possess rare aspects of both stellar quality and art historical importance can be assembled into one exhibition. This is just such a time. Phoenix Ancient Art’s presentation and publication of these objects for Crystal appropriately marks the event. One will find that the works of art in this catalog are as diverse as they are fascinating and finely made, among which are included magnificent objects of great rarity. Some of the most ancient and rarest of the objects come from Near Eastern cultures – an alabaster plaque with an image of ritual worship (no. 1) and a stupendous Sumerian statuette of a seated female worshiper (no. 3), both of which date to the third millennium B.C. The alabaster plaque is undoubtedly linked to religious ritual and is one of only two that are known, the similar plaque having been discovered at Mari beneath an altar dedicated to the Sumerian mother goddess. The seated worshiper is extremely wellpreserved with its inlaid eyes of lapis lazuli and shell still intact. Also among the oldest objects is the monumental royal bust of a pharaoh (no. 4) made of quartzite, the durability and reddish brown color of which suggested the immortality and permanence of the sun – particularly appropriate for the image of Egyptian pharaohs who were identified with the sun god Re. The life-size, Archaic Greek sculpture of a kouros (no. 6), a male youth, is of paramount importance. Statues of this type are usually shown nude, and the drapery and figural style demonstrate the sculpture’s ancient origin as that of East Greece or the eastern Mediterranean region – another rarity. The silver eagle on a Corinthian capital (no. 11) is depicted with remarkable realism, and along with ancient drinking and libation vessels, the gold rhyton in the shape of a deer (no. 7). Intimate familiarity with our own human species is aptly demonstrated by the sensuous image of the nude Aphrodite (no. 13) and an equally moving marble torso inspired by the famous Classical sculpture, the “Doryphoros” 2

of Polykleitos (no. 10). One of the most important portrait sculptures known from antiquity, a marble image identified as the Greek poet Hesiod (no. 12), is also included among these works. The masterful image of this poet embodies the character of the man, and remains among the most significant and important ancient portraits known. Juxtaposed to such magnificent life-size works of sculpture, the perfectly preserved and extremely rare chalcedony statuette of Victory (no. 14) itself remains a crowning achievement of the ancient gem cutter’s art. The cultures represented by these masterworks – Near Eastern, Egyptian, Aegean, Greek, Roman, Scythian, Byzantine, and Islamic – are separated by time and place, the diversity of their customs, religious beliefs, and social organization. However, all share in a common bond that draws them together – a universal instinct and ability to create beautiful works of art. Like the people who made and appreciated these works, we may continue to participate in the visual enjoyment of these creations that mirror the history of their time, or challenge our intellect to understand those sometimes enigmatic objects from the ancient world – all of which celebrate the rich and varied material culture of humankind.



Plaque with an image of ritual worship Near Eastern (Syria?), early 3rd millennium B.C. Alabaster H: 39.5 cm



Complete and virtually intact plaque, except for minor chips on the edges (three corners). Back surface roughly flattened and very slightly rounded. The plaque is a few centimeters thick, with straight edges, as if it was designed to be inserted in a wall, although there are no traces of tenons. Trunconical in shape, it tapers towards the upper part. The front is largely covered with incisions representing a series of geometric, architectural and figural patterns that are also attested in other contemporary Near Eastern monuments. The decoration is composed thus: a) framing the plaque at the top and bottom are friezes of linear motifs (zigzags, hatched triangles, net patterns); b) the central part is occupied by what looks like a simplified human face (which would be female, considering the presence of the incised pubic triangle between the netting and the hatched triangles), with the eyes represented by five concentric circles and surmounted by brows, a vertical line and two concentric circles respectively representing the nose and the mouth (one could also suggest that the eye circles represent the breasts and the mouth circles the navel, so the panel would depict a female body with a strongly accentuated sexual nature); c) there are three elements pertaining to ritual worship, namely the three-floored symmetrical rectangular buildings with ornate doors and lintels, the frieze of nine “eye idols” of a type well documented throughout the Near East (their shape recalls the figurines first discovered at Tell Brak, in the so-called Eye Temple) and the four simplified plant branches (vertical stems with herringbone motifs) placed around the pubic area and on the first floor of the buildings. It is currently not possible to determine the exact iconographic meaning of the stele, although it is no doubt closely linked to the religious and ritualistic sphere. This work has a close parallel in 6

a plaque of the same type and shape, excavated at Mari, decorated with incisions similar not only in their structure, but also in their general theme; there are the same geometric decorations framing the scene, the same type of face and female body, the presence of a central image linked to ritual worship (plant stems, deer whose presence near the female pubis would represent the masculine principle). The stele from Mari, uncovered in 1997 beneath an altar dedicated to the Sumerian mother goddess Ninhursag (ca. 2300 B.C.), was in a grave (called favissa) in which were deposited ritualistic objects from an ancient shrine to the goddess; it would certainly be dated earlier than the altar, at the beginning of the 3rd millennium B.C., like our example. It is noteworthy, however, that our stele features a more rigid and symmetrical decorative structure, with a larger number of incised motifs and fewer empty areas. The evocation of the stylized female body, with the obvious emphasis on its sexual nature (according to a typology that refers to the iconography of Aegean, Anatolian and Levantine sculpture of the Early Bronze Age, rather than to the Mesopotamian models), is very probably connected to beliefs regarding fertility; the plant branches would have to be interpreted in the same context. The image of the eye was an important symbol in the ancient Near East. Although their exact significance is still debatable, eye idols like those carved on this stele - schematic figures formed of a simple trapezoidal plaque imitating a human body, with the highly stylized head reduced to a large pair of flat wide eyes above a thick neck were supposed to have a religious function; it is thought that their huge eyes echoed the wonder of the faithful at all things sacred or at the apparition of the deity, or even that they might embody supernatural beings appearing through the eyes. The two constructions that frame the face/female body are placed on a flat ground which,

reinforced by a frieze of zigzags, clearly divides the upper and lower parts of the plaque; the appearance of each floor of these buildings recalls the facades of temples in scenes engraved on contemporary cylinder seals. One may therefore conclude that they were religious rather than civilian buildings. No detail differentiates one floor from another, except their size; there is no trace of a shrine, of a cult statue or of an altar (the only remarkable elements are the plant branches located on the roofs of the first level). The presence of three stacked levels is certainly the most important element of this panel, given that practically no multi-floored religious building is documented in the architectural iconography of glyptics (whereas multi-floored constructions are attested by some models in the 3rd millennium B.C.); here, one would imagine that the size and proportions of the support influenced the choice of the sculptor. The fact that two identical buildings are visible on the left and right is also enigmatic, since it is not clear whether they are two separate buildings or a simple iconographic convention meant to respect the symmetry of the scene. The association of religious architecture with a large-eyed mask is also attested in glyptics through a Predynastic cylinder seal from Khafajah (Temple of Shara), on which, below a curved line, can be seen the facade of a temple (or altar?); above the line, there are plant elements (three rosettes) and, symmetrical to the building, a face with two wide open eyes, brows, nose and small mouth. Like its parallel from Mari, this stele has a very elaborate iconography, which combines on a reduced surface several symbols related to the Near Eastern religious beliefs of the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. It can therefore be imagined that this object was intended for a cult use, the functioning of which is currently unknown.

Provenance Ex Elie Bustros Collection, Beirut, 1950’s-1960’s.

Bibliography On the stele from Mari, see: ARUZ J. (ed.), Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, New York, 2003, p. 163, no. 106. FORTIN M., Syrie: Terre de civilisations, Montreal, 1999, p. 284, no. 295. On “eye idols” and their meanings, see: BRENIQUET C., Du fil à retordre: Réflexions sur les “idoles aux yeux” et les fileuses de l’époque d’Uruk, in GASCHE H. and HROUDA B., Collectanea orientalia: Histoire, arts de l’espace et industrie de la terre, Neuchâtel-Paris, 1996, pp. 31-53. CAUBET A., Des idoles et des lunettes, in Syria, 83, 2006, pp. 177-181. On architectural iconography, see: AMIET P., La glyptique mésopotamienne archaïque, Paris, 1980, pp. 89-92; pp. 99-100, no. 681, pl. 48 (cylinder seal from Khafajah). HEINRICH E., Bauwerke in der altsumerischen Bildkunst, Wiesbaden, 1957, pp. 69 ff. MARGUERON J., Iconographie et architecture dans la Mésopotamie du IIIe millénaire av. J.-C., in SIEBERT G. (ed.), Méthodologie iconographique: Actes du colloque de Strasbourg, 27-28 avril 1979, Strasbourg, 1981, pp. 11-30. 7


Cycladic idol of the Spedos type Aegean (Cyclades), Early Bronze Age II (ca. 2500 - 2400 B.C.) Cycladic marble H: 47 cm



Virtually intact statuette, carved from a beautiful white coarse-grained marble; tip of the left foot now lost, surface slightly damaged on one side. Traces of abrasion, left by the sculptor during the manufacture of the piece, still visible between the legs. This is an outstanding statuette for many reasons: much larger than the average size, artistic qualities, excellent state of preservation and especially abundant remains of paint that place it among the masterpieces of Cycladic sculpture. As evidenced by the clearly marked breasts and pubic triangle, this is a nude female figure represented in the usual attitude of Cycladic “idols”: standing upright (but the position of the feet, directed downwards, would not allow it to stand by itself), legs slightly bent, arms folded over the belly. The head is tilted backwards, its flared oval profile recalling the shape of a lyre. Only the nose is sculpted on the face. The elegant and subtle proportions are also highlighted by fine linear incisions, which depict other anatomical details: the nape, the base of the neck, the spine, the knees, the toes. Clear traces of red paint are still preserved on the face (vertical red lines on one cheek and on the forehead) and on the chest (crossed lines between the breasts). Shading, which would have been black-colored, is still visible against the light, indicating the eyes and the hair. The red traces are nevertheless more difficult to interpret: were they scarifications or tattoos? Although attested on other contemporary sculptures, the polychromy of the figurines is rarely in such good condition. Typologically, this is a beautiful example of a canonical “FAF (Folded-Arms Figure)” statuette. It belongs to the so-called “Spedos” variety, which represents the highest level of prehistoric 10

Cycladic sculpture, towards the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C. C.A. Picon, who published this figure in 1986 (and who also quotes the opinion of P. Getz-Preziosi), attributes it to the artist who may also have executed a statuette found in Naxos (Arch. Mus. 4673), made by a sculptor known as the “Master of Naxos” 4673 (see P. Zapheiropoulou), to whom at least one other piece can be attributed, now housed in the Goulandris Museum (inv. 252), in Athens. His style is reminiscent of prolific and famous sculptors, such as the Naxos Museum “Master”, the “Rodgers Sculptor” and the “Strangford Sculptor”. It is mainly thanks to these statuettes, both simple and attractive in design, that prehistoric Cycladic art is so famous today. Despite their beauty and strong seductiveness for the modern artistic taste, such objects still retain many secrets, since their real purpose remains unknown. These “idols” (which, when their place of discovery is known, come almost exclusively from necropolises) have been alternately regarded as concubines for the deceased, mourners, substitutes for human sacrifices, nurses for the deceased, representations of revered ancestors, toys for the afterlife, figures allowing or helping the transition to the afterlife, etc.; other scholars connect them with the Great Mother, a goddess of procreation and fertility, worshipped from the Neolithic in the Near East, in Anatolia and in Central Europe. Considering the recent studies on their polychromy, experts are formulating new ideas about the meaning of these statuettes. It appears that, behind their remarkable typological unity, such images conceal the existence of different functions, but the lack of contemporary written sources and of any precise archaeological context makes it difficult to actually understand, even broadly, 11

the religious, funeral and other beliefs of the inhabitants of the Cyclades. According to P. Getz-Gentle, the discoveries on the use of color enable us to attribute to these “idols” a much more active role than previously thought. Such statuettes - scientific research establishes that the polychromy was regularly completed or redone - seem to have been linked to fundamental stages of the life of their owner, as if they had accompanied him throughout his existence. They would embody a protective being, certainly female and maternal (P. Getz-Gentle compares her to a sort of patron saint), presiding over the phenomena and natural events most often inexplicable to the ancients: the cycle of life, the astronomical phenomena, the seasonal cycle and the fertility of the land, the sea, etc. Other scholars suggest, by comparing the roles of divine images in other civilizations, that Cycladic statuettes would have played an intermediary role between the believer/owner of the “idol” and the deity, like a kind of medium allowing, at some stages of life, humans to come into contact with superior beings.

Provenance Ex Michel Dumez-Onof Collection, Mount Street, London, October 1980; ex Stanley J. Seeger Collection, New York.

Exhibited Classical Antiquities from Private Collections in Great Britain: A Loan Exhibition in Aid of the Ashmole Archive, Sotheby’s, London, January 15-31, 1986.

Published GETZ-PREZIOSI P., Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections, Richmond (Virginia), 1987, p. 207. HENDRIX E., The Paint Motifs on Early Cycladic Figures, PhD. diss., New York University, 2000. PICON C.A., Classical Antiquities from Private Collections in Great Britain: A Loan Exhibition in Aid of the Ashmole Archive, London, 1986, p. 16, no. 1, pl. 1.

Bibliography On other examples attributed to the same sculptor, see: Exhibition of Ancient Greek Art from the N.P. Goulandris Collection, Athens, 1978, p. 58, no. 40, inv. 252 (see also p.127, no. 143, inv. 282). ZAPHEIROPOULOU P., Protokykladica Eidolia tis Naxou, in Stele: Tomos eis Mnemen Nikolaou Kontoleontos, Athens, 1979, pp. 534 and 538, pl. 242 (Naxos, Arch. Mus. 4673). On the Spedos type in general, see: THIMME J. (ed.), Art and Culture of the Cyclades, Karlsruhe, 1977, nos. 130-213. On polychromy in Cycladic sculpture, see: HENDRIX E., The Paint Motifs on Early Cycladic Figures, PhD. diss., New York University, 2000. Kykladen: Lebenswelten einer frühgriechischen Kultur, Karlsruhe, 2011, pp. 185-201. On Cycladic art and culture, see: GETZ-GENTLE P., Panorama de l’art des Cyclades, in CAUBET A. (ed.), Zervos et l’art des Cyclades, Vézelay, 2001, pp. 17-39. GETZ-GENTLE P., Personal Styles in Early Cycladic Sculpture, Madison (Wisconsin), 2001. Kykladen: Lebenswelten einer frühgriechischen Kultur, Karlsruhe, 2011. THIMME J. (ed.), Art and Culture of the Cyclades, Karlsruhe, 1977.




Statuette of a seated worshipper Sumerian, early Dynastic III period (middle of the 3rd millennium B.C.) Alabaster, bitumen, lapis lazuli, shell (?) H: 31 cm



Complete statuette in excellent condition; chips and superficial wear on the surface. Earrings, incrustations of the bangs and eyebrows, fragments of the stool and of the left hand now lost. Head reglued; part of the bun remodeled, or restored, probably in ancient times; left fragment of the stool made separately, or repaired, and assembled with a system including two cylindrical holes and tenons. Inlaid eyes (lapis lazuli, shell?) attached to their sockets with bitumen. This figure represents a woman sitting on a narrow high seat without a back; her bare feet are placed on a small stool, which resembles a pedestal. The seat is composed of several rows of uneven rectangles with engraved outlines, likely imitating woodwork or wickerwork. Probably because of the irregular block of alabaster, the back of the seat is not flat and is slightly concave in the upper part. The base of the statuette is flat. The woman, whose exact age cannot be determined although she looks rather young, is depicted boldly head-on, while the profile view of the statuette lacks a little thickness (especially the upper part). The right arm is bent and raised to the chest; the hand carries a semi-spherical cup. The left arm is hidden by the garment; the hand rests on the knee and holds a long branch with fruit (dates?) or lanceolate leaves. The style is characteristic of Sumerian sculpture in the 3rd millennium B.C., with a remarkably delicate face; oval in shape, it is perfectly structured, with a strong chin, large nose and high cheekbones. A rich polychromy, resulting from the use of various materials for the eyes, the brows and the bangs, makes the figure look almost life-like. The pierced ears suggest that she would also wear earrings, certainly made of precious metal. The woman’s expression, almost “smiling”, is a distinctive feature of Mesopotamian figures; in reality, it was probably not a smile, but rather a 16

demonstration of inner spirit and joy. Despite this idealization, one should mention the great formal diversity of Mesopotamian statues; they all differ from each other, although they are not real portraits. The eyes are, however, the most important element of the figure; colored, wide open, surmounted by deep-set brows (probably inlaid with bitumen), they seem to express the woman’s wonder at the deity and, at the same time, the adoration felt by the faithful towards the superior being. The woman (who cannot be identified, lacking any inscription) is dressed in the so-called kaunakes, which was probably the archetypal ceremonial garment in the Mesopotamian Bronze Age. It is composed of overlapping rows of long tufts, imitating perhaps sheepskin or goatskin. The kaunakes covers the left shoulder, crosses the chest diagonally, passes under the right armpit (leaving the right shoulder bare) and reaches the ankles, wrapping the entire body. The edge of the garment, marked by a thick hem, curves across the chest and then falls vertically along the left side. The hair is very elaborate; on the forehead, inlaid wavy bangs (perhaps made of lapis lazuli, now lost) are embellished by a ribbon and by braids that encircle the head like a turban; behind, the hair is arranged on a sort of rectangular, slightly protruding board applied to the back of the head; the locks are marked by incised herringbone-patterned lines. This hairstyle, described by A. Spycket, is attested by other sculptures from different areas of Mesopotamia and confirms the stylistic dating of the statuette. Excavations in Mesopotamian temples have revealed a large number of male and female figurines that devotees commissioned and dedicated to various deities, as a testimony of their faith 17

and to arrange for a constant presence near the deity. Typologically, while men and women are equally attested, seated figures are rarer than standing statuettes. Such ex-votos were deposited at the foot of the altar or on the offering table; they have been often discovered in favissae (votive deposits), where they were stored when the temples or the sanctuaries had to be cleared, to make room for new offerings. These statuettes were offered by prominent figures of the court or of the administration, by members of the religious staff, by wealthy people (merchants or dignitaries, for instance), or even by members of the royal families. The presence of an inscription, usually engraved in the back, could indicate the name and rank of the owner. Statuettes carved in two parts, repaired or completed by elements made separately and attached with wooden tenons, bitumen or plaster, are relatively common; it depended on the original size and shape of the block used by the sculptor and on the frequent breaks that damaged the figures during manufacture or later by accident. The nose, neck, face and feet are the most often repaired parts, while the head and sometimes even the legs could be made separately and then assembled together with the rest of the work. Statuettes of worshippers were widespread in Mesopotamia. Stylistically, this figurine is related to certain objects excavated at Mari and can therefore be dated to the middle of the 3rd millennium B.C.

Provenance Ex private collection, collected in the 1930’s.

Bibliography ARUZ J. (ed.), Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium B.C. from the Mediterranean to the Indus, New York, 2003, pp. 148 ff. (sculpture from Mari); p. 162 (polychromatic face with wavy bangs). BRAUN-HOLZINGER E.A., Frühdynastische Beterstatuetten, Berlin, 1977, p. 41, pl. 9 (man seated on a high seat with a branch and a goblet); p. 45, pl. 21 (hairstyle); p. 62, pl. 25 (worshipper with lapis lazuli bangs made in two parts). FRANKFORT H., Sculpture of the Third Millennium B.C. from Tell Asmar and Khafajah (OIP 44), Chicago, 1939, p. 31, pl. 37-38 (seated or standing women with the same attributes); pp. 37 ff. (manufacture and repairs). SPYCKET A., La statuaire du Proche-Orient ancien, LeidenCologne, 1981. On female hairstyles in the 3rd millennium B.C., see: SPYCKET A., La coiffure féminine en Mésopotamie des origines à la Ire dynastie de Babylone, in Revue d’assyriologie et d’archéologie orientale, 48, 1954, pp. 113-129 (especially pp. 120-122 on this type of hairstyle); 49, 1955, pp. 113-128.




Monumental bust, hand and a fragment with cartouche of a royal statue (Sesostris) Egyptian, Middle Kingdom (12th Dynasty, 19th century B.C.) Quarzite H: 80 cm



The bust, preserved from just about the level of the navel to the top of the head, is sculpted in quartzite, one of the most durable of all stones used by the ancient Egyptians. That durability symbolically imbues this image with a quality of permanence. The reddish-brown color of the quartzite is likewise possessed of symbolic properties because that hue was, according to ancient Egyptian texts, associated with the sun. Consequently, the image of this pharaoh was thought to represent the king eternally identified with the sun god Ra. The pharaoh is bare-chested and wears a nemesheaddress, its lappets falling on to his shoulders and its so-called pig tail, aligned with his spine at the back, ending at the top of a back pillar. The nemes-headdress is provided with a uraeus, or sacred cobra, whose function was to protect the pharaoh symbolically from all danger. The modeling of the torso and arms is indeed muscular, connoting the strength inherent in the office of pharaoh. Two seemingly disproportionately large ears protrude from the nemes-headdress, but they are intentionally super-sized. The large ears suggest that the all-powerful pharaoh is also “all-hearing”. His large ears metaphorically suggest that he can and will hearken to each and every petition presented to him at court by his subjects. The Eloquent Peasant, a literary work of the period, recounts how a subject of lowly social status, who was wronged by a powerful official, was able to plead his case in person before pharaoh and exact justice for the wrong committed against him. The facial features of the pharaoh are characterized by signs of age, creating a marked contrast with the pharaoh’s physically fit physique. The disparity between torso and face is only paradoxical in terms of misapplied Western art historical exegesis. In point of fact, the ancient Egyptians habitually combined heads exhibiting such realistic, portraitlike features on very idealizing bodies. 22

The portrait-like features of this pharaoh have been the subject of endless speculation on the part of art historians. Earlier, such images were regarded in Shakespearean terms, “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” That suggestion was furthered by scholars who called the pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom “Shepherd Kings”. Both characterizations indicated that worrying about the plight of their statistically numerous agrarian population resulted in the care-worn features of the faces of pharaohs, such as the one represented here. More recently, a less romantic approach to the subject has been adduced for the presence of these care-worn faces. This approach is in keeping with ancient Egyptian art which is visual and must be understood as a manifestation of social decorum. As the Middle Kingdom began, certain members of the elite surpassed pharaohs in wealth, but were denied commensurate political power. These elite members were also the object of sumptuary laws by which their wealth could not be flaunted in public so as not to embarrass their less financially advantaged pharaohs. Faced with these obstacles, the elite elected to represent themselves with faces characterized by signs of age. These realistic images were distinctly different from the bland idealizing images of their contemporary pharaohs. The differences were anciently so striking that all members of the elite, regarding these realistic visages, realized that the represented were not pharaohs. In order, therefore, to close this visual gap, pharaohs of the period elected to have themselves represented in the same idiom, with faces characterized by signs of age. The statue of the pharaoh under discussion was created in just such a social setting. The torso and head are accompanied by a right hand, palm open, its fingers resting directly on a thigh. Since there are no traces of a garment or kilt in association with the thigh, one might tentatively 23

suggest that this pharaoh was represented in a standing rather than in a seated, enthroned position. In general, in royal, enthroned images the right hand is fisted and holds a bolt of cloth. A second fragment, also belonging to this head and torso, contains the tantalizing remains of a cartouche, or royal ring, representing a rope enclosing the hieroglyphs spelling a royal name because there is no punctuation in the hieroglyphs. The cartouche contains a royal name, Sesostris, written vertically. The style of this statue, particularly with regard to the paradoxical difference in the treatment of the face and the torso, the large ears, and the name within the cartouche all suggest that the statue represents a pharaoh of Dynasty XII, of which there were three named Sesostris. All three are represented by statues, inscribed with their full names. These can be placed into three different groups, one designated for each of these three pharaohs. Contrary to popular opinion, the statues of each particular pharaoh in each of these three groups exhibit such a degree of stylistic variation, that there is no dominant artistic idiom which serves as the common denominator uniting all of the statues of any one of those three groups. So, for example, statues inscribed for Sesostris I, such as the head and torso in Berlin exhibit both a horizontally aligned mouth and disc incised nipples on the pectoral muscles. The same horizontal mouth dominates at least one image of this same pharaoh excavated at Lisht. The pronounced “frown” characterizing the mouth on our statue with its down-turned lips suggests that we are not dealing with an image of that pharaoh. At least one torso and bust inscribed for Sesostris II in Vienna appears to be a somewhat softer version of the representations of Sesostris I from 24

Lisht. And yet, here again, the mouth is horizontal and not rendered as a pout. Based upon these observations, the physiognomic features of our statue appear to find their closest correspondences with images identified as Sesostris III. Many of these exhibit the same pout but are also characterized by heavy eye lids, which are not emphasized in this statue. If one were to rely exclusively on the down-turned lips which create the impression of a pout, then one is inclined to identify the pharaoh portrayed in our statue as Sesostris III. In light of this stylistic analysis, however, it would be more prudent to avoid insisting upon a specific identification. Such specificity obscures discussions about this statue’s esthetic quality, the decisive interplay between the realistic and the ideal, and the symbolic eternal, solar characteristics that the specific choice of quartzite imparts to this monumental image, whose dominating presence as a work of art commands center stage.

Provenance Bust: ex American private collection, 1980’s-1990’s. Hand and fragment: acquired from Rupert Wace Ancient Art, London; ex British private collection.

Bibliography For the classic treatment of the pharaohs of the Middle Kingdom as “Shepherd Kings”: WILSON J.A., The Burden of Egypt: An Interpretation of Ancient Egyptian Culture, Chicago, 1951. For a discussion on the initiative of the elite for the introduction of images characterized by signs of age: DELANGE E., Musée du Louvre: Catalogue des statues égyptiennes du Moyen Empire (2060-1560 avant J.-C.), Paris, 1987. For its illustrations, although dated, this work remains the cornerstone for discussions about images of pharaohs from the Middle Kingdom: EVERS H.G., Staat aus dem Stein: Denkmäler, Geschichte und Bedeutung der ägyptishen Plastik während des Mittleren Reichs, Munich, 1929. For the Middle Kingdom in general, see: WILDUNG D., L’age d’or de l’Egypte: Le Moyen Empire, Fribourg, 1984. For discussions of pharaonic images of the Middle Kingdom, see: WILDUNG D., Sesostris und Amenemhet: Agypten im Mittleren Reich, Munich, 1984. For images of Pharaoh Sesostris III, consult: FARSEN P., Die Plastik Sesostris III: Ein Beitrag zur königlichen Kunst des ägyptischen Mittleren Reichs, Norderstedt, 2010. 25


Statuette representing a Gorgon Archaic Greek, middle of the 6th century B.C. Bronze H: 15.2 cm



Intact and remarkably preserved ornament; 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. The object 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 the 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 the 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 28

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 attribution of these pieces to one of the regional workshops of the Archaic period is not unanimously admitted; for instance, the Martonocha statuette is thought either to be a colonial production (see C. Rolley) or to have been manufactured in an eastern Greek workshop (see Zurich catalogue). The artistic quality of this piece is virtually unequalled, even in the panorama of the Archaic period. Compared to closest parallels, one may 29

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 supernatural 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 unclear. Medusa, the only mortal Gorgon, is the most famous of the three sisters, who had the power to 30

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.

Provenance Ex American private collection, 1980’s-1990’s.

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 GrandeGrèce, 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. 31


Statue of a draped kouros Archaic Greek (eastern Greece), third quarter of the 6th century B.C. (ca. 540 - 530 B.C.) Limestone H: 135 cm



Statue carved from a monolithic block of limestone. Remarkably preserved, but the lower legs and the left half of the face now lost; partially chipped, in particular on the left shoulder blade, buttock and thigh. The surface shows superficial wear, but the volumes are still perfectly visible and reveal the pure style and sensitive work of the artist; the top of the head still retains rare blue-colored (and possibly reddish brown) traces of what might be an ancient polychromy. This life-size (or slightly larger) statue represents a youthful man. Despite the presence of the drapery (which is rare, yet attested in other examples), this figure belongs to one of the most famous and important types in the development of Archaic Greek sculpture, namely the kouros (“young man” in Greek; this term indicates a type of sculpture representing the figure of a male youth, usually nude, standing head-on, with one leg forward and the arms hanging along the body). Although limestone is used instead of marble, this statue can be compared stylistically to the great masterpieces of Greek sculpture dated to the second half of the 6th century B.C. The attitude of the young man is perfectly depicted; he stands upright with one leg slightly forward, his arms at his sides, while his clenched hands are placed on his thighs. The proportions are elegant, the volumes well rendered, the body shapes finely modeled. The fabrics, represented with realism and sensuality, both suggest a delicate texture and reveal the vigor and nuances of the sculpture (see especially the legs, the arms and the chest). The youth of the figure is suggested by the body proportions, the well developed musculature, not yet comparable to that of an athlete, and the features of the beardless face, which (despite the current breaks) convey an idealized serene expression. 34

The young man is dressed in a masculine outfit that includes three elements and is already documented in the first half of the 6th century B.C. in the eastern part of the Greek world (see, for instance, the Geneleos group from Samos): a) a chiton (a draped garment, mostly visible on the legs), which certainly reached the ankles; b) over the chiton, an ependytes (a kind of pullover), whose edges are beautifully decorated with finely incised meanders (it might have been originally embellished with colors), that can be seen on the upper left arm and just under the hands, especially on the left; c) a himation (an ample cloak) fastened on the left shoulder and covering the entire right arm, the wrist and a large part of the back. On the body, both on the chest and in the back, the himation forms concentric folds marked only by light incisions. As in other related examples, the edge of the fabric, which descends vertically from the left shoulder, is highlighted; here, the sculptor has simply engraved a long line, without any further details (the decoration was probably painted). The right hand of the young man may be seen to lift the cloak at thigh level. The hair, also of the Ionian type, is first composed of flat, wide locks dressed backwards from the forehead. At the back and on the shoulders, the hair falls in long, thick and regular braids; incised vertical lines and molded undulations differentiate the locks and perfectly render the volume of the hair. Atop the head, a simply pitted surface suggests that an element, made of metal perhaps, would have been inlaid. Stylistically and chronologically, this work can be confidently classified in an eastern Greek context, primarily by the comparison with three famous figures of dressed kouroi, namely the young man from Foneas (Tigani Museum, Samos) and the slightly earlier statue of Dionysermos (Louvre, Paris), as well as the more recent example from Myus (Staatliche Museen, Berlin). These figures wear the same clothes, but their himation is arranged 35

differently, since, fastened on the left shoulder, it then passes across the front of the neck and under the opposite armpit. Although they are less prevalent than on the aforementioned kouroi, the soft and rounded shapes of the outlines of our figure’s body are still present. The facial type and shape also argue in favor of an eastern Greek origin and have close parallels in many contemporary works from these regions. Like korai, their female counterparts, statues of kouroi represented the idea of youth. Nowadays, it is thought that they had three purposes: they were used as funerary statues, as dedications to the gods in sanctuaries or, more rarely, as cult statues (of Apollo especially). An inscription may indicate the name of the dedicator and his origin (see, for example, the statue of Dionysermos in the Louvre). The elaborate and rich manner in which this kouros is dressed clearly indicates that the commissioner of the work belonged to a high, probably aristocratic social rank (according to R. Özgan, the presence of the ependytes would indicate belonging to the aristocracy). The exact reason why a few rare figures of kouroi are sometimes represented this way remains unclear; perhaps it was just a fashion phenomenon. In carefully reviewing the issue, and especially the clothing and attitude of the statue from Foneas, H. Kyrieleis recently suggested that this image could represent a young dancer (richly dressed, this kouros is also depicted on tiptoe and raises his himation with his hand, facilitating his movements), certainly a member of a wealthy family having to participate in a ritual dance, during religious or civic festivals, for instance. This hypothesis could also apply to our statue, but the preserved elements (the legs are missing and the hand gesture is unclear) are unfortunately not sufficient to judge.


Provenance Ex German private collection, 1980’s.

Bibliography On kouroi as a sculptural type in general, see: BUSCHOR E., Frühgriechische Jünglinge, Munich, 1950. RICHTER G.M.A., Kouroi: Archaic Greek Youths, New York, 1988. On the classification of this work, see: BLÜMEL C., Die archaisch-griechischen Skulpturen der Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin, Berlin, 1963, pp. 36-37, no. 26, fig. 70-73; p. 58, no. 60, fig. 169-176; p. 64, no. 69, fig. 217-219 (statue from Myus). FREYER-SCHAUENBURG B., Bildwerke der archaischen Zeit und des strengen Stils, Bonn, 1974, pp. 88 ff., nos. 47-48, pl. 30-34; pp. 150 ff., no. 72, pl. 60. RICHTER G.M.A., Kouroi: Archaic Greek Youths, New York, 1988, p. 155, no. 124a, fig. 616-619 (Dionysermos, Louvre); pp. 155156, no. 124b, fig. 624-627 (statue from Foneas); on the face, see: p. 110, no. 127, fig. 369-370 (Istanbul); pp. 110-111, no. 128, fig. 371-372 (London). On dressed dancers, see: KYRIELEIS H., Der Tänzer vom Kap Phoneas, in Istanbuler Mitteilungen, 46, 1996, pp. 111-121. On male outfits in Ionia and on the ependytes as an aristocratic symbol, see: ÖZGAN R., Untersuchungen zur archaischen Plastik Ioniens, Bonn, 1978, pp. 98-123. 37


Rhyton in the shape of a deer Scythian, 5th - 4th century B.C. Gold, semi-precious stones H: 13.9 cm - L: 19 cm (with spout)



Complete vessel, virtually intact, though slightly misshapen; surface pierced in places (left antler, base of the neck). Two red and white stone inlays still in position. This entirely hollow rhyton (fluid container) was probably hammered on cores from several gold sheets, which were then soldered to one another, composing the body of a deer; carefully concealed, the welds are practically invisible. The spout - a narrow cylinder emerging from the mouth of the deer - is extended inside the container by a long thin pipe that almost reaches the bottom; this system prevented an excessive amount of the liquid held in the vessel from being poured (because of the slightly misshapen belly of the animal, the funnel is now partially obstructed); as with other related rhyta, the precise pouring of the liquid was controlled simply by covering the spout with a finger. The wide cylinder with an elliptical section soldered to the back of the animal is open and would allow the vessel to be filled. Its edge is finely adorned, like a piece of jewelry, with twisted wires, with other wires forming a chain and with circles surrounded by granulation (originally set with polychromatic semi-precious stones). The vase is modeled in the shape of a sitting deer, its four legs folded beneath its body. The sculpture is of the highest quality and, despite a degree of stylization, the proportions and the different features of the animal’s body are faithfully reproduced. The rather short, somewhat rough antlers indicate that the animal is a young male. Despite its apparent position of rest, the deer lifts its neck and slightly raises its head in a fearful attitude, very natural for a species whose swift getaway is its best defense; this impression is reinforced by the pricked up ears, as if the deer were listening for a suspicious noise. All the anatomical details of the animal are meticulously observed and accurately rendered; whether for the head (shape of the skull with 40

prominent bone structure, sinuous outline of the antlers with very realistic pedicles, eye area with skin folds, nostrils, jaw), for the body (muscles of the shoulders and haunches, rendering of the rear with genitals and outlined buttocks) or for the legs (detailed hooves), the sculptor has shown great skill and knowledge of the animal world. The coat of the deer is rendered by a multitude of fine lines arranged in regular rows, vertically (body, belly, legs) and horizontally (neck, chest). As with numerous luxury items from the Scythian territories, the style and type of this rhyton link it to the contemporary classical Greek production. Indeed, from the mid-7th century B.C., after the Greek colonization of many Black Sea coastal regions, economic and cultural relations between Greeks and Scythians significantly increased; in exchange for products of the land (particularly wheat), skins, fish, salt, slaves, etc., the Greeks provided the local populations with wine, oil and especially luxury goods, such as ceramics and gold ornaments. Animal-shaped vessels have a long tradition in the ancient world (Near East, Anatolia, Egypt, Mediterranean basin). In the 1st millennium B.C., this production continued with objects made of various materials, the most important examples being of precious metal. There were then three different classes of vessels called rhyta: hornshaped vessels, whose pointed ends were replaced by protomes (animal heads); vases in the shape of animal heads; vases, which were in fact hollow statuettes, most often modeled in the shape of animals. In the Classical period, the most famous precious metal rhyta certainly were the pieces excavated in ancient Thrace (modern-day northern Greece and Bulgaria), which are often attributed to Greek artists or artists of Greek origin. In the Scythian world, however, aside from the odd horn-shaped example with an animal protome, this type of ves41

sel was not popular; the few attested examples were imported from the Achaemenid Persian Empire or from the Greco-Thracian world. A shape traditionally associated with various forms of rituals, the rhyton, in Scythian iconography, appears in “fraternizing” scenes, where two men dressed as warriors drink from the same horn, and in scenes depicting the investiture of a king by a divine figure. The fact that a ritual vessel like the rhyton is in the shape of a deer is not surprising, since, along with the panther and the eagle, this animal was a central subject in Scythian iconography, either as a foreign inspiration or as a local “animal style” tradition. An important hunter’s quarry (there are many scenes that feature the killing of large ungulates after a hunt led by wild beasts, griffins or men), the deer would have also had a symbolic value, connected to the fact that males, which generally live together except during the rut, lose their antlers every year and grow them back impressively (with additional tines) the following year; this phenomenon would have suggested the idea of rebirth and renewal.

Provenance Acquired in 2001 from a Middle Eastern family in Switzerland.

Bibliography On Scythian rhyta, see: LEBEDYNSKY I., Les Scythes: La civilisation des steppes, Paris, 2001, pp. 138-139. L’or des Scythes: Trésors de l’Ermitage, Leningrad, Brussels, 1991, pp. 124-125 (two warriors drinking from the same rhyton). Oro: Il mistero dei Sarmati e degli Sciti, Milan, 2000, p. 100, no. 51 (gold horn-shaped rhyton). SCHILTZ V., Les Scythes et les nomades des steppes, Paris, 1994; pp. 186-187, fig. 134 (a man drinking from a rhyton in the presence of a deity); p. 361, fig. 264 (silver rhyton). TROFIMOVA A.A. (ed.), Greeks on the Black Sea: Ancient Art from the Hermitage, Los Angeles, 2007, pp. 219-220, no. 120. On contemporary imagery of deer in the Scythian world, see: SCHILTZ V., Les Scythes et les nomades des steppes, Paris, 1994, pp. 154-155, fig. 114-115; pp. 160-161, fig. 118-119; pp. 164165, fig. 121. 42



Votive relief representing an apobates race Classical Greek, late 5th century B.C. Marble Dim: 56 x 51 cm



Relief generally well preserved, but superficial wear on the surface; sides and edges chipped. Flat back, but roughly finished; modern attachment system (via two screws) still in place above the pediment. The relief was probably reused in the Roman period for wall construction, which would explain some accidental damage. The plaque is rectangular and surmounted by a pediment provided with three palmette antefixes. It bears a scene carved in low relief, the thick and prominent lower molding serving as the ground line. Two-thirds of the surface is occupied by the representation of a two-wheeled chariot, a parade and war chariot drawn by four horses running abreast, hence its name of tethrippon. The animals are depicted rearing, a conventional pose expressing the gallop in Greco-Roman art. The chariot is mounted by two figures. The one in the background - the charioteer - holds the reins with his outstretched arms; he is dressed only in a long pleated tunic (chiton), whose hem flies in the wind of the race. As for the passenger, who clings with one hand to the rail of the chariot, he is characterized as a warrior, armed simply with a helmet and a shield; no garment covers his youthful body. Another young man appears in front of the chariot; standing firmly legs apart and directing his left arm towards the new arrivals, he seems to interfere; he is also nude, except for the flimsy drapery hanging from his right hand. This scene can confidently be interpreted as a contest of apobates (agôn apobatikos). For the athlete, this acrobatic exercise consisted in leaping on and off while the chariot continued moving; carrying a heavy and cumbersome shield would increase the difficulty. Such an exercise refers to the Homeric period, when the warrior was driven in a chariot to the 46

battlefield and then dropped off to fight on foot. The arrival of phalanx infantrymen (hoplites) in the late 8th century B.C. made this way of fighting obsolete; but it was still remembered by the aristocracy, the only class authorized to own horses. Literary and epigraphic sources attest that apobates races represented the main attraction of the Panathenaic games in Athens, into which they were introduced by the legendary King Erichthonius. This is why they feature in the famous frieze of the Parthenon (north block XI-XII). In this partly destroyed section of the frieze are two chariots with their crew. In front of each one is a walking figure (figures 44 and 45) making a gesture in their direction. Archeologists identify these figures as judges or stewards, although one of them (no. 45) seems to be holding out the crown of victory, rather than giving an order to someone. However that may be, the figure depicted in our low relief certainly belongs to the same category. As regards the function of this low relief, it evidently had a votive purpose. The individual who commissioned it would surely have been the winner of a contest of apobates. Many sources relate that the prize would not accrue to the charioteer, but to the warrior, the apobate. Moreover, during the Great Panathenaic games, the prize was not a number of amphoras filled with olive oil, as for other disciplines; it was a cash prize. Other votive reliefs featuring the same subject are documented in Athens. One was found on the Acropolis (Nat. Mus. 1326), another in the remains of the Roman fortifications of the Agora (Ancient Agora Mus. S 399). A third, fragmentary example comes from the shrine to Amphiaraus in Oropos, Boeotia (Nat. Mus. 1391). This last item, which can be linked to the Amphiaraia athletic games celebrated around the Boeotian sanctuary, proves that this type of race was known and also practiced beyond Attica. 47

Stylistically, it is plain that all these reliefs derive more or less directly from the frieze of the Parthenon, dated to 440 B.C. Our example can nevertheless be related to a closer work, namely the renowned relief representing the abduction of the nymph Basile by the hero Echelos (Nat. Mus. 1783). The overall composition, the posture of the horses and the attitude of the figure on foot (Hermes) are very similar, although the subject is different. This work, dedicated by a certain Cephisodotus, is certainly Attic and can be dated to around 410 B.C. One can therefore conclude that our relief is an original Attic Greek work dedicated around 410 B.C. by the victor of an apobates race.

Provenance Formerly in the collection of Sir Daniel Donohue and the Countess Bernardine, Los Angeles; collection assembled in the 1950’s-1960’s, but before March 1968.

Bibliography On the contest of apobates, see: CROWTHER N.B., The Apobates Reconsidered (Demosthenes LXI, 23-9), in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 111, Cambridge, 1991, pp. 174-176. MÜLLER S., Herrlicher Ruhm im Sport oder Krieg: Der Apobates und die Funktion des Sports in der griechischen Polis, in Nikephoros, 9, 1996, pp. 41-69. NEILS J. and SCHULTZ P., Erechtheus and the Apobates Race on the Parthenon Frieze (North XI-XII), in American Journal of Archaeology, 116, Boston, 2012, pp. 195-207. REED N.B., A Chariot Race for Athens’ Finest: The Apobates Contest Re-Examined, in Journal of Sport History, 17, 1990, pp. 306-316. REED N.B., More Than Just a Game: The Military Nature of Greek Athletic Contests, Chicago, 1998, pp. 42-55. On related reliefs, see: KALTSAS N., Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Athens, 2002, p. 134, no. 258 (abduction of the nymph Basile). Le corps et l’esprit, Lausanne, 1990, p. 158, no. 117 (relief from Oropos). TRAVLOS J., Bildlexicon zur Topographie des antiken Athen, Tübingen, 1971, p. 19, fig. 26 (Agora S 399) and fig. 27 (Acropolis 1326). 48



Statuette of Hermes Hellenistic Greek, 3rd - 2nd century B.C. (the original piece, attributed to Lysippos, could date from the middle of the 4th century B.C., ca. 340 - 330 B.C.) Bronze H: 26.8 cm



The statuette, cast using the lost wax process, is in excellent condition; the wonderfully preserved surface allows one to fully appreciate all of the modeled and incised details of this figure; the eyes were inlaid in silver, which was also used on the modeled wings. Only the left forearm, the left foot, one of the wings and the attributes of the god are missing. Hermes is represented seated on a boulder, in a moment of repose that one can imagine as a short respite between two missions: along with Hebe, his feminine counterpart, Hermes was the messenger of the Olympian gods. His left leg is extended forward, the right is bent and rests on the rock on which the god places his bare feet; his torso is slightly turned and oriented towards the left in a very smooth movement of rotation that elegantly continues through the neck and the head; the left arm is held low and the hand was probably placed on top of a rock; the right forearm rests on the thigh. In spite of his apparently relaxed and calm posture, the bust of this young man is subjected to a twisting towards the left, which makes this work particularly complex and well structured. The dramatic distribution of weight (the entire left half of the body is in repose, while the right leg and arm are bent) and the frontality of pose typical of Classical works were from the Classical period on not only about providing interest from a number of angles, of which the best is undoubtedly the three-quarter view from the left: perfectly equilibrated and clear with a studied correctness of the depth and the position and excellent separation and placement of the limbs. The torsion of the body, rendered in a very natural fashion, balances the disequilibrium created by the upsetting of the chiasmus. Contrary to the norm (Hermes was usually presented as a young man, slim with normally devel52

oped musculature), in this statuette, the body of the god is treated like that of an athlete, with the musculature well modeled and at the same time extremely forceful, as proven by the rendering of the anatomy of the chest and thoracic cage, of the back and also of the legs. The face is oval and slightly bearded like that of an adolescent, with fine, nuanced features. The preserved wing was attached with a cubic tenon directly into the hair (this statuette does not wear the petasus, the winged helmet of Hermes) that covers the skull like a cap with undulating incisions marking the curls. Just above the forehead, the face is framed by a series of thick curls, which encircle the entire head. On a typological note, this head does not refer to the original Lysippan work: perhaps it represents a portrait of a personage of the highest order, for example a Greek prince. The idea of using a well known sculptural type for the body, together with the head of a historical character is already known by the 3rd century B.C. with the famous Pompeian bronze of Demetrius Poliorcetes. Although the ancient authors are mute on this subject, contemporary archeological criticism is generally unanimous on an attribution to Lysippos - the most famous Greek sculptor from the second half of the 4th century B.C. - for this image of Hermes. The original, which may have been larger than life (cf. the marble statue of Merida and the head from the Barracco Museum in Rome), is lost, but it can be recreated, especially through some small bronzes, of which none attain the extremely rarified level of quality of this piece. A statuette from the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna (inv. VI 420, 3rd century B.C.) is certainly the best known replica of this type: the god, represented as a bearded young man, with short hair and without the petasus, is seated on a boulder with his torso leaning strongly forward and

his feet bare; in his right hand he holds the caduceus while the left rests on a rock. The contour of the tumescent ears is slightly deformed on the example in Vienna (which recall those of boxers) allowing, among certain savants, an identification of this Hermes as the Enagonios type, the protector of stadiums and palestrae. The elaborations of the Imperial period, of which there are three principal types, are joined by other attributes from the original figure: the beggar’s purse in the left hand, the winged petasus, the chlamys, the sandals, a well known pose, and at times, very strong musculature. Artistically and typologically, this statuette undoubtedly reproduces the original type, like the figure in Vienna, measuring half its size. The only notable variations from the Vienna figure are the presence of the wings, the slightly more rigid position of the torso and especially the type of head, which is very different from Lysippan creations.

Provenance Ex British private collection. Ex American private collection, 1980’s-1990’s.

Published CHAMAY J., Hermès vu par Lysippe, in Artpassions, Revue d’art et de culture, Geneva, September, 2007, pp. 63-65. Phoenix Ancient Art 2007-N. 1, Geneva-New York, 2007, no. 10.

Bibliography BESCHI L., I bronzetti romani di Montorio Veronese, Venice, 1962, pp. 31-60, pl. VI-X. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. V, Zurich-Munich, 1990, pp. 369-370, nos. 962-966. Lisippo: L’arte e la fortuna, Rome, 1995, pp. 130-139, no. 4.16; pp. 402-404, no. 6.18. MORENO P., Vita e arte di Lisippo, Milan, 1987, pp. 65-68. 53




Polykleitan torso of the Doryphoros Late Hellenistic, ca. 2nd - 1st century B.C. Marble H: 91.5 cm



A distinctive and esthetically pleasing classical nude, this marble sculpture comes from an over life-size representation of a hero or athlete. The anatomy of the torso creates a realistic impression of the figure’s virility and perpetuates the classical ideal of a well-tempered physique. It ranks among the finest of this sculptural type known from museum or private collections. The sculptor has succeeded in representing proportions of the male body with great accuracy, thus providing a realistic aspect to the figure’s musculature and pose. With a contrapposto stance, the sculpture would have rested its weight primarily on a straightened right leg, while the left leg would have been relaxed and bent at the knee; a metal pin and evidence of a marble strut at the figure’s right thigh shows that a support was in place to secure the lowered right arm of the figure. In keeping with Greek concepts of the ideal body, anatomical details of the sculpture represent a perfection of form: the muscular chest tapers to a lean abdomen and the wide muscular back is depicted with shoulder blades drawn back. The buttocks are full and rounded, and the legs are sturdy. The sculptor’s knowledge of anatomy and his skill in naturalistic representation selectively emphasize these concepts, which endows the sculpture with a monumental presence. A powerful and evocative figure, this sculpture ultimately draws its inspiration from works by the famous Greek sculptor, Polykleitos, who was active from about 460 to 410 B.C. Of the many artists that flourished during the Classical period in Greece, no one earned the title of a great sculptor with more enthusiasm in his own age and later than this master. His striving for perfection achieved through balance and symmetry is the essence of Classical sculpture. Ancient literary sources tell us that Polykleitos sculpted gods, heroes, and athletes, and his statues of mortals were unsurpassed. His aim was to convey clarity of form, balance, and completeness, and his medium of communication was the nude body 58

of a muscular male figure, poised between movement and repose. Working almost exclusively in bronze, all of his 5th century B.C. originals have been lost to us. Fortunately the profound influence he exerted on his contemporaries, which extended down to artists of the Hellenistic and Roman periods, assured that full scale, close copies of his works continued to be made. The reputation and fame of Polykleitos in antiquity rested primarily upon his written work, the Canon, which explained the principles of his art. In this book, he described a system of proportion where every part of the body was related to every other part and to the whole. Ancient writers tell us that the treatise of Polykleitos concerned itself with the beauty and excellence that sculpture could attain through an exact system of proportion. As an embodiment of this Canon, the sculpture of a standing nude male figure holding a spear, known as the Doryphoros or “Spear Bearer,” secured the fame of Polykleitos in antiquity and beyond into our own time. Ancient literary sources do not tell us where the original bronze sculpture of the Doryphoros stood, but we know that the impressive sculpture may have represented the most handsome and mightiest of those who fought at Troy - the great Achilles - known by Homer as the “best of the Achaeans” and “outstanding among heroes” (Iliad, 1.244; 18.437). Not surprisingly, copies of the Doryphoros have been found at ancient sites in areas associated with athletic training and competition. No other “spear bearer” sculptural types are known, so there is little doubt that ancient writers refer to the Doryphoros of Polykleitos. Additional sources acclaim the Doryphoros as the epitome of measure, since his pose portrayed the figure as somewhere between rest and movement, and his age between that of a youth and manhood. On first encounter, the sculpture might be viewed as a brawny athlete, but the ultimate message of the 59

Doryphoros is to convey an ideal of precise equilibrium and balance. Although later sculptors introduced their own variations, the concepts of the Polykleitan Canon remained widely influential for centuries, from its beginnings in the 5th century B.C. to the Roman Imperial period of the first centuries AD. This accounts for Pliny’s observation that artists followed his work “like a law” (Natural History, 34.55). With his passionate interest in the concept of athletic perfection embodied within the human form, Polykleitos introduced a figural style that was nothing short of revolutionary for the history of Western art.

Provenance Private collection, Geneva, late 1960’s; Robin Symes, London; Albrecht Neuhaus, Würzburg, by 1969; private collection, London, 1990; acquired by the current owners in 2000.

Published The Burlington Magazine, London, June 1971, p. 71.

Bibliography For Polykleitos: ARIAS P. E., Policleto, Florence, 1964. BECK H., BOL P.C. et al., Polyklet: Der Bildhauer der griechischen Klassik, Mainz, 1990. BOARDMAN J., Greek Sculpture: The Classical Period, London, 1985, pp. 205-206, fig. 184-187. BORBEIN A., Polykleitos, in PALAGIA O. and POLLITT J. (eds.), Personal Styles in Greek Sculpture, New York, 1964, pp. 66-90. BRESCHI L., Policleto, in Enciclopedia dell’ Arte Antica Classica e Orientale, Vol. 6, Rome, 1965, pp. 266-275. CLARK K., The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form, Washington, 1956, pp. 63-72. FURTWÄNGLER A., Masterpieces of Greek Sculpture, New York, 1895, pp. 223-292. LIPPOLD G., Handbuch der Archäologie, 3, Munich, 1950, pp. 162-169. MOON W. (ed.), Polykleitos, the Doryphoros and Tradition, Madison, 1995. RICHTER G. M. A., The Sculpture and Sculptors of the Greeks, New Haven, 1950, pp. 246-255. STEWART A. F., Greek Sculpture: An Exploration, New Haven, 1990, pp. 160-163, figs. 378-390. THURI L., Polyklet, Wiesbaden, 1972. VERMEULE C., Polyclitus, in Encyclopaedia Britannica, 18, 1962, p. 182. VERMEULE C., Polykleitos, Boston, 1969. For the Canon: STEUBEN H., Der Kanon des Polyklet: Doryphoros und Amazone, Tübingen, 1973. STEWART A. F., The Canon of Polykleitos: A Question of Evidence, in Journal of Hellenic Studies, 98, 1978, pp. 122-131. TOBIN R., The Canon of Polykleitos, in American Journal of Archaeology, 79, 1975, pp. 307-321.




Statuette of an eagle on a capital Greco-Roman, late Hellenistic or early Imperial period (2nd century B.C. - 1st century A.D.) Gilded silver H: 23.5 cm



Remarkably preserved object, despite lost fragments and minor cracks (top of the head, capital, tip of the tail, lower edge); deformation between the legs of the bird, in the upper capital (abacus). Surface in excellent condition, though partially covered with incrustations that do not tarnish the beautifully incised details of the eagle, of the leaves on the capital and of the garlands. The statuette is entirely hollow; it was hammered from a very thin silver sheet (less than one millimeter thick) around a core made of a perishable material (wood?), of which there are now no traces remaining. Most probably to strengthen the structure of the statuette, the toreutic artist did not hollow out the area between the bird’s legs and between its legs and tail. Copious traces of gilding are still visible on the eagle’s body (beak, eyes, wings, breast, legs); the entire statuette may have been gilded. On the capital, only the edges of the leaves, and perhaps the garlands, still retain traces of gilt. The two open rings now suspended from the neck of the eagle would have probably not been placed here. Originally, they would rather encircle the lower column to tighten it better around the support of the standard, whose nature remains unknown; it is nevertheless thought that it was a wooden staff. The eagle stands on a Corinthian capital, whose structure is highly elaborate. The legs are spread apart and firmly planted on the ground, with the talons partially protruding from the frame of the abacus. The wings are in a resting position, back against the body where their tips meet. The upper wings are partly open, in an aggressive attitude or simply as if the bird was about to take off. The capital is composed of two rows of stacked leaves, whose coiled ends in very high relief are placed in counterpart to the angles of the abacus. The lower decoration features acanthus leaves, 64

while the upper shows long lanceolate leaves in low relief. Under the capital, the upper column is decorated with a horizontal wreath, from which hang fabric ribbons and semi-circular garlands made of foliated ornaments. These patterns are a somewhat three-dimensional transposition of the leaf crowns, often very elaborate and accurate, used by the contemporary toreutic artists to decorate the central medallion of luxury tableware, especially silver plates. The eagle is depicted with remarkable realism, not only in the shapes and proportions, but also in its external appearance; indeed, the artist has rendered the feathers in three different ways, which closely correspond to the image of birds of prey. On the chest and upper wings are “scale-feathers”, on the head and legs are small and irregular wavy tufts, while the tail and lower wings are covered with long straight feathers. Each feather is furthermore embellished with a stem and barbs in relief that make them look very realistic. The gaze staring straight ahead, the beady eyes in high relief with the crescent-shaped pupils and the hooked and powerful beak with the incised nostrils help to express the predatory and determined air of the bird. The same accurate details and abundant engravings can be noticed in the leaves and in the garlands. Lines, small dots and strokes adorn the various parts of the capital and of the column, indicating thus the outlines and veins of the leaves. The acanthus leaves have rounded rather than pointed tips, a decorative type known as Seleucid acanthus and widespread in the Hellenistic Near East. The absence of parallels does not enable us to determine the precise meaning and purpose of such a piece of sculpture. A symbol of fighting spirit, courage and power, the eagle has a very 65

long iconographic tradition in Near Eastern and Mediterranean art. Fitted on a staff, this piece would become a standard of civic or religious power, or the upper element of a scepter, a distinctive feature of a leading figure, or even of a divine or individual statue. For instance, an eagle topped the scepter held by the commander-inchief of the Roman army during triumphal processions; as of the Classical period, statues of Zeus would already be provided with an eagle; moreover, the emperor represented like Jupiter would have had an eagle as an attribute.

The uniqueness of this example naturally raises questions about its chronology, which may nevertheless be set between the late Hellenistic period and the Roman Imperial period.

In Near Eastern and Anatolian religions, eagles were a manifestation of the supreme cosmic god, namely Baal, sometimes represented on top of a column, as in the famous Palmyra limestone relief found near the Temple of Nabu, in which the eagle (Baal), standing on the column, is represented at the left of a goddess and of the Tyche of the city; in the Hellenistic and Roman period, this deity would have certainly been related to Zeus (Jupiter), a god, who, to the Greeks, had an evident cosmic and celestial aspect and whose attribute was the eagle. This object might also have been dedicated to a temple as an ex-voto, like many eagle statuettes generally modeled in bronze, though of a lesser artistic quality, which were uncovered in several areas of east-central Anatolia; among these figurines, some were placed on a small pyramid, or on a square or round pedestal, others on an animal (deer, bull). Furthermore, it is attested that eagles played an important role in the framework of afterlife beliefs. Many funerary monuments include eagles with spreading wings; they were supposed to take the deceased to the afterlife, immediately following death. This Oriental custom was primarily reserved for princes, but it became more common in the Imperial period, when it also spread to the West. 66

Provenance Property of an American private collection, Cambridge (Massachusetts).

Bibliography On statuettes and images of eagles, see: CHANTRE E., Mission en Cappadoce, 1893-1894, Paris, 1898, p. 156, pl. 26. INVERNIZZI A., Ai piedi dell’Ararat: Artaxata e l’Armenia ellenisticoromana, Florence, 1998, p. 147, fig. 89-90 (1st century B.C.). KOZLOFF A.P. (ed.), Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Mainz/Rhine, 1981, p. 203, no. 193. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. VIII, Zurich-Munich, 1986, s.v. Zeus in per. or., no. 243 (Zeus and eagle). On the Palmyra relief with an eagle on a column capital, see: Syrie: Mémoire et civilisation, Paris, 1993, p. 301, no. 239. On the closest parallels for different parts of the capital, see: PFROMMER M., Metalwork from the Hellenized East, Malibu (California), 1993, p. 118, no. 5 (acanthus and lanceolate leaves). 67


Portrait of a Greek poet, probably Hesiod Roman, early Imperial period (ca. 1st century B.C.) Fine-grained white marble H: 33 cm



Missing thc tip of the nose with the right nostril; chips from face, hair, and rims of ears. Greek portraiture, which began to development in the 5th century B.C., initially included generic representations of men long deceased by the time their portrait was created. Therefore portraits were modifications of pre-existing sculptural types and likely had little resemblance to the individual’s actual appearance. Such portraiture, by which standard types were personalized to a greater or lesser degree, was the norm during the Classical period and into the early Hellenistic period. After Alexander the Great, portraiture was produced along more realistic lines and became a central Hellenistic art form. Continuing the well-established tradition of Hellenistic portraits, Roman works contributed an additional touch of reality and are known for their verism - the meticulous depiction of facial characteristics. As such this masterwork of sculpture, a realistic and emotionally charged marble portrait, depicts the features of a man of sixty or seventy years of age in great detail. His general appearance is one of a rustic elderly person, now bowed down by age and suffering, but still in command of a vigorous personality. His head turns upward and to the right, and his face has a long moustache and a short straggly beard covering his cheeks and chin, with short tufts of hair below the lower lip. The unkempt hair on his head is arranged in long irregular strands that hang down over the forehead and at the back of the neck to the shoulders. His aquiline nose arcs outward from the bridge of the nose, all of which is accentuated by a marked indentation between the bridge and forehead. The mouth is slightly parted, as if he is about to speak; the lower lip is full and is made to appear heavier and more prominent than it is by the tufts of hair below it. His eyes are small and deep set with sagging flesh beneath that testifies to his old age. Above the eyes, the forehead is creased with lines of aging, and the area be70

neath the prominent cheek bones is sunken with two deep furrows extending from the nostrils obliquely downward. The neck is wrinkled and haggardly looking, and terminates neatly at the shoulders with a circular edge and rounded base to accommodate insertion into the body of the sculpture. Judging from the position of the head that looks upward, the original composition must have presented the figure as seated. The modeling and conception of the portrait which are done in an “ultra-realistic style” ultimately point to the baroque phase of Hellenistic portraiture dating to the 2nd century B.C., the time during which the original Greek portrait must have been created, and of which this Roman marble portrait is an accurate and precise version. Significantly, the closest parallel for this marble portrait head is the bronze head found in 1754 in the peristyle of the Villa of the Papyri at Herculaneum. Now in the Museo Nazionale in Naples (inv. 5616), the head is of the so-called “PseudoSeneca” type, for it was long thought to represent Seneca until an inscribed portrait of this philosopher was discovered in 1813 and the theory of its identification as Seneca had to be revised. The close parallel between this marble portrait and the Naples example is particularly important because, being a bronze copy, the head in Naples is likely very close to the original since ancient bronze copies were usually made from molds taken from the original work of art. Very few of the surviving marble heads of this type approach this marble portrait head with regard to quality, sculptural detail, and its striking resemblance to the masterful bronze head in Naples. That the Naples head represents a famous personality popular in the Roman period is indicated by the exceptionally large number (at least forty examples) of extant Roman marble portraits of this type. None of the portraits bear an inscribed name, but scholars agree on the identification of the person depicted by the type as that of the poet Hesiod. The creation of a portrait of Hesiod

in the Hellenistic period and its continued popularity in Roman times is understandable, and to depict him looking like a rustic, lowly, and o1d, yet inspired man would be expected. Paul Zanker’s description of the bronze portrait in Naples also captures the spirit of this marble example: “This old man is in no way characterized as sick or dispirited. Instead, he is filled with passionate energy. The tension in the forehead and eyebrows suggests extreme concentration, as he searches for just the right word. There is something compelling in his expression, as if he just has to express himself, as if something is driving him that is stronger than he is... This portrait seems to aim at capturing a specific set of biographical data, at rendering in its particular pathos a specific and unmistakable spiritual physiognomy comprising these elements: manual labor, poverty, a disregard for personal appearance, and a breathless, almost fanatical manner of speech. All this seems to point to the peasant-poet Hesiod, who was called to poetry by the Muses while he was tending goats on Mt. Helikon and who lived and, in his verses, described a life of inexorable toil, worry and disappointment.” As one of the oldest known Greek poets, Hesiod is contrasted with Homer as the other creator of early epic. Most scholars agree that Hesiod lived in the period just before or after 700 B.C., and his work lies between that of post-Homeric and pre-academic epic poetry. It is well-known that Homer and Hesiod were closely associated in the minds of the Greeks throughout antiquity and their portraits were exhibited together. Hesiod also enjoyed great popularity in Roman times. Cultured Romans quoted freely from his works and his poems were imitated by Virgil, Lucretius, Ovid, and Catullus. In his poetry, it is Hesiod himself who tells us his father had given up a life of unprofitable sea-trading and moved from Cyme on the sea-coast of Asia Minor to agriculturally rich Boeotia in central Greece. In his Theogony 71

(Theog., 22-35), Hesiod relates that he heard the Muses calling upon him to sing of the gods as he tended sheep on Mt. Helicon. The Theogony tells us of the genealogies and origins of the gods, and it contains the oldest extant Greek account of the creation of the universe. Works and Days, Hesiod’s other famous poem, is a unique source for our knowledge of daily life in Archaic Greece, and one which provides moral advice and practical instruction on agriculture, sea-faring, and social and religious conduct. It concerns itself with farm work, with the labor of shepherds and peasants, with the animals they cared for, and with the change of seasons. In these two epic poems, which have been attributed to him since antiquity, Hesiod appears as a straightforward thinker, who in beautiful but simple language sang of the lives of gods and men. While Works and Days has always been viewed as the most notable of the Hesiodic poems, both poems confirm the identity of an author with a distinct personality - a surly and conservative man of the countryside, given to reflection, and one who felt the presence of the gods heavy about him. In similar ways, this masterful marble image of a poet embodies the character of this man, Hesiod, and it remains among the most significant and important ancient portraits known to us.

Provenance Private Collection, Oslo; acquired in Rome between 1954 and 1958, thence by descent.

Published Acta ad Archaeologiam et Artium Historiam Pertinentia, 1, Oslo, 1962, p. 17, pl. lll b. Arachne: Datenbank und Kulturelle Archive des Forschungsarchiv für Antike Plastik, Cologne, no. 23905. RICHTER G.M.A., Portraits of the Greeks, Vol. 1, London, 1965, p. 61, no. 38, fig. 207-209. SANDE S., Greek and Roman Portraits in Norwegian Collections, Rome, 1991, no. 6. SEEBERG A., Two Pseudo-Seneca Replicas in Oslo, in Symbolae Osloenses, 35, 1959, pp. 98 ff., fig.3-5.

Bibliography For the comparable bronze, the so-called “Pseudo-Seneca” portrait in Naples, and the identification of the type as Hesiod: BIEBER M., The Sculpture of the Hellenistic Age, New York, 1961, p. 143. CROME J., Das Bildnis Vergils, Mantua, 1935, p. 63, where the identification of the “Pseudo-Seneca” as Hesiod was first proposed. RICHTER G.M.A. (abridged and revised by R.R.R. Smith), The Portraits of the Greeks, New York, 1984, pp. 191-192, fig. 151. SANDE S., Greek and Roman Portraits in Norwegian Collections, Rome, 1991, pp. 16-17, no. 8, pl. 8. ZANKER P., The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, Berkeley, 1995, pp. 150-159, fig. 80 a-c. On the image of intellectuals in ancient times: Musa pensosa: L’immagine dell’intellettuale nell’Antichità, Milano 2006, pp. 74 ff. STEWARD A. F., Faces of Power: Alexander’s Image and Hellenistic Politics, Berkeley, 1993. ZANKER P., The Mask of Socrates: The Image of the Intellectual in Antiquity, Berkeley, 1995. ZANKER P., The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus, Ann Arbor, 1988.




Statue of crouching Aphrodite Roman, 1st - 2nd century A.D. (original dated to ca. the middle of the 3rd century B.C. ?) Coarse-grained marble H: 82 cm



Perfectly preserved statue, though headless; arms and feet now lost. Surface of the marble in excellent condition on the left side of the sculpture, but slightly worn on the other side. The arms and the head were made separately and attached originally to the shoulders and to the neck with metal tenons, whose traces are still visible. This statue, a little larger than life-size, represents a youthful woman in a crouching position, entirely nude since she has been taken by surprise while bathing. The female body has a sinuous profile, with sensual curves and rounded shapes; the natural and finely nuanced modeling is dominated by the smooth surfaces of the thighs and of the back; on the belly, the sculptor has rendered in a very realistic way the rolls of fat resulting from the woman’s position and from her full swaying hips. These rounded and generous shapes would have definitely attracted the attention of her contemporaries. This figure can confidently be identified with Aphrodite/Venus, the Greco-Roman goddess of love, one of the most famous and most represented deities in Western art, especially from the Hellenistic period. The structure is amazingly bold; the body of the young woman takes the shape of a pyramid, with all four limbs bent. As indicated by the position of the shoulders, the arms would fall downwards; folded over her chest as if to protect her private parts, they indicate the type known as Aphrodite Pudica. She would have placed her left elbow on her left knee, with her hand probably lowered to hide her pubic area (the hole for the tenon is visible on the knee), and reached her right arm over to her left shoulder to cover her breasts (on other examples, this arm was raised above the head, perhaps in an attitude of pouring water). The head would be turned to the right. 76

The right foot placed flat on the base supported the entire weight of the statue, while only the toes of the left foot touched the ground, thus helping to maintain the balance of the composition. This statue belongs to a large well attested group of Roman marble copies, probably inspired by a Greek original, that archeologists generally relate to an excerpt from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History (Nat. Hist., XXXVI, 35); the Latin author briefly evokes the figure of a bathing Aphrodite on display in Rome, in the Portico of Octavia, which was made by a sculptor called Doidalses. Another ancient source mentions an artist with a slightly different name, Daedalsas, creator of a crouching Aphrodite, who worked around the mid-3rd century B.C. in Asia Minor, under King Nicomedes I of Bithynia, where the original model (made of bronze?) for this special type would have been located. According to modern criticism, however, this attribution remains hypothetical, since Pliny the Elder’s text is very corrupt and allows various interpretations. Despite the missing elements, this example is a beautiful replica of the series and can be linked to the best documented copies, like those housed in the National Museum of Rome’s Baths of Diocletian, in Rome, in the Torlonia Museum, in Rome, and in the Louvre, in Paris. The connection with these replicas indicates that the goddess lowered her gaze to the ground and especially that her hair recalled that of the Capitoline Aphrodite, parted in the middle, with two locks gathered up and held on top of the head. The expression on her face appeared somewhat mischievous, her lips almost smiling. The hole visible on Aphrodite’s left buttock probably confirms the existence of a young Eros, who would have placed his hand on her back; attested in other marble copies, his presence is perfectly justified from a thematic point of view, though not guaranteed on the Hellenistic prototype. 77

The motif of the female nude was introduced into Greek art by Praxiteles in the last phase of the Classical period, with the famous statue of the Aphrodite of Cnidus (second half of the 4th century B.C.). Following this significant iconographic innovation, which surprised many contemporaries, other images of the nude goddess were created during the Hellenistic period and then imitated during the Roman Imperial period, as evidenced by the many variations on the subject, often an excuse to show the female body in its voluptuous and rounded shapes, which corresponded to the contemporary canons of beauty. Wealthy Roman citizens and art collectors often commissioned such images - including Venus crouching - for the decoration of their villas and gardens, as well as for public and private buildings housing thermal baths.

Provenance Gawain McKinley (South Africa, London and New York), early 1980’s; Sleiman Aboutaam, late 1980’s; ex Japanese private collection, acquired in 1994.

Bibliography ANDREAE B., Skulptur des Hellenismus, Munich, 2001, pp. 8083, pl. 32-33, fig. 40. BRINKERHOFF D.M., Hellenistic Statues of Aphrodite: Studies in the History of their Stylistic Development, New York, 1978, pp. 35-55. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Vol. II, Zurich-Munich, 1984, pp. 104-105, nos. 1018-1027. PASQUIER A., La Vénus de Milo et les Aphrodites du Louvre, Paris, 1985. SMITH R.R.R., Hellenistic Sculpture, London, 1991, pp. 79-83. 78



Statuette of Victory (Victoriola) Early Byzantine, 5th century A.D. (?) Chalcedony H: 8.8 cm



This outstanding statuette of Victory carved from a single block of chalcedony is a unique expression of sumptuary art in the early Byzantine period. Some would be surprised to see a representation of the goddess at a time when Imperial decrees prohibited devotion to ancient Roman gods. The many decrees and the vibrant denunciations issued by Christian writers (Prudentius, for instance) regarding public homage to the gods prove that ancient religion was not suddenly abandoned. As well as ancient religion, ancient culture was still very much alive in the early centuries of the Byzantine Empire and taught by both Christian and pagan writers. The representation of the goddess of victory is therefore not unusual, but in keeping with a context still strongly influenced by Greco-Roman culture. It should not be understood as a religious representation, but as a symbol linked to the iconographic expression of Imperial power. From the times of Constantine, the Empire had resolutely turned to Christianity, causing a significant change in the conception of the Empire. To understand the place of such a representation of Victory in Roman iconography, one should briefly recall the founding of the Empire by Augustus. Augustus made the goddess Victory the tutelary deity of the Empire. He placed his reign and that of his successors under the sign of military victory. This idea was already widespread among the Sabines and the Romans of the Republic in the guise of deities who were synthesized in the figure of Victoria. This deity had been enriched by the Greek conception of Nike, the goddess of military victory, but also by the Games. This last conception, missing from the Italic conception, was quite popular in Rome, since a statue of the goddess was placed on a column of the Hippodrome. The function of the divinity remained marginal, however, at the expense of the important role she played in ensuring the power of the emperor. It is worth noting that the Games 82

were for the Romans an expression of the power and generosity of the emperor with regard to his people.

Victory depicted on coins, carved on memorial reliefs and triumphal arches and placed next to the Imperial portraits.

On August 28, 29 B.C., to highlight this new ideological foundation and in honor of his victory at Actium, Augustus established the Altar of Victory in the new Curia Iulia where the Senate was in session. This is the subject of an important discussion in the 4th century A.D. between Saint Ambrose of Milan and the representative of the senatorial aristocracy who remained faithful to paganism, Quintus Aurelius Symmachus (cf. De ara Victoriae). The latter fervently, but unsuccessfully, advocated the return of the statue removed in 382 on the order of Emperor Valentinian II.

This statue did not survive the ages, although a gilded bronze foot recently discovered in Rome is thought to have been part of it. Its appearance is known from the description of authors such as Cassius Dio, Suetonius, Herodotus, Ambrose of Milan, Symmachus and Claudius Claudianus, as well as through depictions on intaglios and coins. The statue portrayed the goddess crowned with laurels, her tunic flying in the wind, her wings spread. The figure was represented touching down, one foot already resting on a globe, the other still in flight. She wore the insignia of victory.

The Altar of Victory was surmounted by a statue of the goddess taken by Augustus from the Greek temple in Taranto. The Tarentine Nike was made of gilded bronze; it was probably the work of an artist of the 4th century B.C. Augustus, in acting thus, transformed the Curia into a temple dedicated to Victory. In his conception, the Roman Empire received from the gods the mission to rule the world through his victories over the neighboring peoples; such was its destiny and its duty. To ensure its realization, the people and its leaders had to render public worship. When the Empire turned to Christianity, this conception evolved. God gave the Empire dominion over the world, so that it would spread the “glad tidings” to the world. The Empire became the servant of God. During the 4th century A.D., a very interesting debate about the political conception of victory took place between Christian and pagan authors. The statue in the Curia had an extraordinary impact. This representation of Victory, very marginal before its establishment there, became widespread from that time onwards. It is thought to have been the model for most of the images of

This description corresponds to our statuette, despite the absence of the globe. Carved from a single block of chalcedony, this masterpiece of Roman-Byzantine glyptic art combines the translucent lightness of the stone and of the winged young woman with the strength and delicacy of the late Theodosian style. The tunic, flapping strongly in the wind, hugs her body, revealing her left leg and fluttering behind. Draped over a belt, the garment is fastened on her left shoulder by a round fibula, leaving her right shoulder and breast uncovered. The widely spread wings with the finely engraved feathers contrast with the smooth and light rendering of the skin and of the tunic. The right foot is still in flight, while the left foot is already placed on the object that supported the figure. A tiny pedestal fitting just under the left foot indicates that the statuette would have been inserted into another object (a globe, a plaque, the hand of a statue?). The right arm reaches forward and would have held an object now lost (a palm, a crown?). The left arm, slightly bent, falls along the body and, given the disproportion of the hand, would have carried a seemingly longer object (a palm, an insignia, a shield?). A laurel crown placed in the hair would 83

have completed the statuette. These elements, now missing, would have been made of a precious material such as gold, ivory or silver. The head, a masterpiece of quiet confidence, of determination, of perseverance and of contained joy, plays again on the contrasts of the stone. The smooth face has a straight nose, a small closed mouth and heavy oval eyes that are clearly related to the style of ivories from the 5th-6th century A.D. The hairstyle, gracefully detailed by the engraving of each lock, comprises a knot of hair arranged above the forehead, voluminous locks framing the face and a low bun falling on the nape, certainly so as to place a crown on the head. These small statuettes of Victory are documented from the 1st century B.C. on a skyphos (twohandled wine cup) from the “Boscoreale treasure”, showing Augustus receiving a Victoriola from a deity. Their purpose and use may vary. It is attested that such statuettes accompanied the ancient emperors during military campaigns. They were also offered as gifts to them and are thought to have played a role in the celebration of triumph and Imperial pomp that may have taken place in a palace or a circus. From the 2nd century A.D., a Victoriola mounted on a globe became an Imperial attribute, as evidenced by coins, as well as by descriptions of Imperial statues. This iconography has been variably successful over the centuries, depending on the ideology promoted by the various reigns. The presence of the statuette as an attribute gradually divested of its divine nature is still attested under the emperors who became Christians. Indirect testimonials report this late use. A famous motif from the Chronography of 354, now in the Vatican, depicts a monument showing the full-length figure of Constantine the Great holding a Victoriola in his outstretched hand. A later 84

illustration of this use appears in a drawing from the Freshfield Album in Trinity College, Cambridge. It represents the base of the Column of Arcadius, located in the Forum of Arcadius, in Constantinople (the column was destroyed in 1715 by the Ottomans). The eastern and western emperors, Arcadius (395-408 A.D.) and Honorius (395-423 A.D.), face each other in the second register of the south wall, each holding a small Victoriola in his right hand. The closest parallels for this Byzantine chalcedony statuette are ivories from the 5th-6th century. Winged Victories illustrate civil works, such as the consular diptych of Probus (406) in the Cathedral of Aosta, representing the emperor Honorius standing clad in armor and carrying in his hand a Victoriola on a globe. On the diptych (5th century) in the Riccardi Collection, in Florence, one may admire the personification of Rome holding a Victoriola on a globe. On the example (middle of the 5th century) formerly preserved in the Cathedral of Hamburg is Victory triumphing over a Barbarian. On the example (ca. 500) housed in Castello Sforzesco, in Milan, are two Victories carrying the bust of Constantine in a laurel wreath. The consular diptych of Basilius (480) in Castello Sforzesco, in Milan, shows Victory seated and holding the consul’s portrait. Finally, on the famous Barberini ivory (6th century), Justinian on horseback is crowned by Victory and accompanied by a general who gives him a Victoriola; the representation of Justinian on horseback could be a copy of an equestrian statue of the emperor crowned by Victory, which was erected in Constantinople. Other official statues of emperors adorned the capital city. One can therefore imagine many reproductions of the ancient goddess on Byzantine civil monuments. It is known, besides, that the personification of Rome, placed by Constantine in a small building facing that of the personification of Constantinople at the founding of the new capital, would have also held a small Victoriola.

There were thus many representations of Victory in the first centuries of the Byzantine Empire. They were part of the iconographic repertoire of power, an Imperial personification and attribute. Our beautiful chalcedony statuette belonged to this context and would have been part of a statue, or erected on a globe or on a plaque celebrating a victory and meant to be offered as a gift. Rare are the examples of precious stone figurines from the 4th-5th century. The most significant examples are housed in the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore: a small crystal statuette of Hercules and the Erymanthian Boar (inv. 42.208, 4th century, although F. Brommer relates it to a crystal statuette of Hercules found at the Acropolis, in Athens, and dated to the 1st century) and a lapis lazuli eagle (inv. 42.1406, 4th-5th century) probably placed on a scepter. The use of chalcedony in glyptic art is attested for earlier works, including portraits of children and of emperors. Full-length female statuettes are much rarer. The famous chalcedony Victory (1st-2nd century) in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, thus gives a thematic echo to our Victory; it offers an important stylistic point of comparison, which allows us to confirm a much later date for the Byzantine Victory. One should also mention the chalcedony figurine (1st century B.C.) found in a tomb near Cologne-Weiden, now in the Staatliche Museen, in Berlin, depicting a draped woman identified as Persephone. The small Venus (4th-5th century) housed in the Walters Art Museum, in Baltimore, could be contemporary with our statuette, though of lower quality. Finally, in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, in Vienna, one may consider the beautiful statuette of a seated divinity (Concordia?) (inv. ANSA.X.15, 3rd century) and the head of a statuette of Isis (inv. ANSA.X.26, middle of the 1st century). These five statuettes are remarkable examples of chalcedony works, a stone difficult to carve (7

on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness). The size of the blocks used for these objects was a challenge that only great masters of glyptic art would take up. The translucent and milky brightness of chalcedony seems to particularly suit the theme of victory. The master of the Byzantine Victoriola perfectly exploited the huge stone that he had been given. This statuette can be considered as a great masterpiece of the period.

Provenance Ex private collection, acquired from the Habermacher Gallery, Schweizerhofquai, Lucerne, in 1982.

Bibliography On the carving of precious stones in ancient times, see: TALLON F., Les pierres précieuses de l’Orient ancien: Des Sumériens aux Sassanides, Paris, 1995. On examples of figures of Victory in the 4th-5th century A.D., see: Romans and Barbarians: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1976, p. 114, no. 122. VOLBACH W.F., Elfenbeinarbeiten der Spätantike und des frühen Mittelalters, Mainz/Rhine, 1952, pl. 10, no. 38; pl. 12, nos. 4849; pl. 15, no. 5. On the figure of Victory in the iconography of Roman power, see: BERLINGER A.R. and BERLINCOURT M.A., Victory as a Coin Type, in Numismatic Notes and Monographs, 149, New York, 1962. HOELSCHER T., Victoria Romana, Mainz/Rhine, 1967. POHLSANDER H.A., Victory: The Story of a Statue, in Historia, 18, 1969, pp. 588-597. On statuettes in glyptic art, see: BROMMER F., Antiken des Athener Instituts, in Mitteilungen des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts: Athenische Abteilung, Vol. 87, 1972, pp. 289-291, pl. 100. Early Christian and Byzantine Art: Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore, Baltimore, 1947, p. 110-114, pl. LXXIV-LXXV, nos. 534 and 545.

Über die Sammlungen von Altertümern des Schloss Friedenstein zu Gotha, in Jahrbücher des Vereins von Altertumsfreuden im Rheinlande, XLI, Bonn, 1866, p. 52-55. Übersicht der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Allerhöchsten Kaiserhauses, Vienna, 1920. ZWIERLEIN-DIEHL E., Antike Gemmen und ihr Nachleben, Berlin, 2007, p. 443, pl. 147, no. 654. ZWIERLEIN-DIEHL E., Constantinople et Rome: Intailles du IVe et du Ve siècle après Jésus-Christ, in La glyptique des mondes classiques: Mélanges en hommage à Marie-Louise Vollenweider, Paris, 1997, p. 83-96. ZWIERLEIN-DIEHL E., Die Chalcedonstatuette aus der Römischen Grabkammer in Köln-Weiden, in Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen, Vol. 27, 1985. On the theology of victory in the 4th century A.D., see: HEIM F., La théologie de la victoire de Constantin à Théodose, Paris, 1992. MUSTI D., Simbologia della vittoria dall’ellenismo a Costantino, in Nike: Ideologia, iconografia e feste della vittoria in età antiqua, Rome, 2005, pp. 25-43. SODINI J.-P., Images sculptées et propagande impériale du IVe au VIe siècle: Recherches récentes sur les colonnes honorifiques et les reliefs politiques à Byzance, in Byzance et les images, Paris, 1994, pp. 41-94. 85




Processional cross dedicated to the Virgin Byzantine, Asia Minor, 10th - 12th century A.D. Gilded silver plaque on iron core (?), niello H: 53 cm - L: 27 cm





In the Byzantine world, the cross was among the major signs signifying the Announcement of the Gospel. It was placed in sanctuaries, houses and public monuments. All liturgical prayers concentrated on it. It was also carried in the solemn processions organized for great festivals and major events in civil life. This rich silver cross is a magnificent example of these crosses that the faithful would follow in procession. This veneration was not challenged by the iconoclasts. Our example, a cross pattée with the edges of the arms concave, is composed of an iron structure covered with silver plaques, possibly soldered with lead. Two spherical tips are riveted to the ends of each arm. The lower vertical arm terminates in a tang, or a stalk to be inserted in a wooden handle. Both sides of the cross are beautifully decorated. One side is in relief, the other is in niello technique. Both sides show the same astonishing technical mastery. On the obverse, the gold was meticulously applied on the silver pattern, without overflowing. On the reverse, a mix containing sulfides was carefully placed, without a smudge. Two workshops probably split the work, with a third one providing the final assembly. Greek inscriptions enable us to confidently identify the isolated figures and the narrative scenes represented. These inscriptions are more or less abbreviated, sometimes even reduced to initials. The text is written in capital letters (uncial script). The principal side of the cross, in relief, features five figures, including the one enclosed in a medallion placed at the intersection. The rest of the surface is occupied by bands of plant motifs, radiating from the center. The edges are in the shape of a small chain. At the center, the Virgin in Glory is seated on a throne, designated by the inscription “Mother of God”, a title given by the Council of Ephesus in 431. 92

Above, Christ in Majesty, with his cruciform nimbus, is accompanied by the inscription “Jesus Christ”. While making the gesture of blessing, he holds an open codex, on whose pages one reads: “I am the light (of the world)”. On the right, a figure wearing the royal crown is identified by the inscription “Prophet David”. He holds a rotulus or volumen (manuscript on papyrus), unrolled so as to reveal the writing, which reads: “The Lord will come down, like rain falling upon a mown field” (cf. Psalms, 72:6), that tradition interprets as an announcement of the Messiah’s coming and attributes to the same David. With his free hand, he makes the gesture of blessing. Below, Isaiah, another great messianic figure, is identified by an inscription in which the word “prophet” is abbreviated in the form of a cruciform “seal”. With his right hand raised to support his words, Isaiah holds an unrolled rotulus in his other hand, on which one reads: “Behold, the Virgin will conceive and give birth to a son” (cf. Isaiah, 7:14). On the left, the Archangel Gabriel walks towards the Virgin, at the center. Raising his right hand, he makes the gesture of blessing. He carries a herald’s staff in his left hand. An inscription recalls the words of the Annunciation: “Hail (Mary) full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (cf. Luke, 1:28). The iconography of this side of the cross, whose theological content is coherent and part of the biblical tradition, thus focuses on the Mystery of the Incarnation. The reverse side of the cross, in niello technique (except for the central medallion), somehow continues the obverse scheme, illustrating the life of the one through whom the prophecies were fulfilled. At the center, a bust of the Virgin is represented in an attitude of prayer, palms facing outward. An 93

inscription recalls her title “Theotokos” (Mother of God). Above, the scene is based on the Protoevangelium of James (2nd century A.D.). It depicts Mary in the Temple being fed bread by an angel. The Temple, represented by two columns with capitals and a dome, is designated by the formula “Holy of Holies” (cf. Protoevangelium, 8:3). Underneath, four letters arranged in a lozenge pattern read: “In the name of Christ the Lord”. On the left, there is the presentation of Mary in the Temple, hosted by a priest. The text from the Protoevangelium does not specify which priest. She is accompanied by her parents, Joachim and Anne, taller than her. Two other figures represent the procession of young virgins accompanying Mary to the Temple. The text says: “And when the child was three years old, Joachim said, Let us invite the daughters of the Hebrews, who are undefiled, and let them take each a lamp, and let them be lighted, that the child may not turn back again, and her mind be set against the Temple of the Lord” (cf. Protoevangelium, 7:2). The inscription reads: “Entrance (Eisodos) of Theotokos into the Temple”. On the right, the birth of Jesus is accompanied by the inscription “Nativity of the Lord”. Mary contemplates the newborn child lying in a manger, illuminated by the rays of a star. An angel plays the lute, while Joseph meditates apart, his back turned. The location of the star over the child denotes a very good knowledge of the text: “And the wise men departed. Then, the star which they had seen in the east led them until they came to the cave and stood over the head of the child” (cf. Protoevangelium, 21:3). Below, the Virgin and the Child are positioned on a cushioned throne, watched by two angels. The title “Mother of God” is inscribed above the scene. 94

Between the scenes, an abstract pattern, in the style of illuminated manuscripts, fills the area. The dedication of the cross can be seen on this same side, on the lower vertical arm, where there is a tenon. Although it is unfortunately fragmentary, it reads: “This Holy Cross was beautifully worked on behalf of the Most Holy Mother of God, commissioned by Theophanes, monk and abbot of an Orthodox monastery (hegumen)”. This cross is certainly the finest, most complete and most accomplished example of a small group of seven (although there are also fragments in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, in Washington) featuring the same characteristics. The others are housed in: Museum of Art and History, in Geneva, Cluny Museum, in Paris, Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, Cleveland Museum of Art (fragmentary example), George Ortiz Collection, in Geneva, American private collection, in Texas. This group is attributed to northwest Anatolia, on the basis of the presumed provenance of the examples in Geneva and Paris. Another argument for this attribution is the corrupt Greek of the inscriptions, which cannot come from the capital city, as well as the provincial locations of the monasteries mentioned in the dedications (those entirely preserved). Our cross can be dated to the 10th-12th century, but it is difficult to be more precise.

Provenance Property of a private collection. Ex G. Zakos Collection, Basel, collected in the 1960’s.

Published CHAMAY J., Objets d’exception (booklet published for the exhibition “Orient-Occident: Racines spirituelles de l’Europe”), Geneva, 2009, pp. 10-17.

Bibliography BANK A. et al., Etudes sur les croix byzantines du Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Genève, in Genava, 28 n.s., 1980, pp. 97-111. DURAND J. et al., Byzance: L’art byzantin dans les collections publiques françaises, Paris 1992, pp. 329-330, no. 243. EVANS H.C. and WIXON W.D., The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era, 843-1261 A.D., New York, 1997, pp. 59-60, fig. 23. LAFONTAINE-DOSOGNE J., Iconographie de l’enfance de la Vierge dans l’Empire byzantin et en Occident, Vol. I, Brussels, 1964. MANGO C., La croix dite de Michel le Cérulaire et la croix de SaintMichel de Sykéôn, in Cahiers archéologiques, 36, 1988, pp. 4149, no. 36. ROSS M.C., Catalogue of the Byzantine and Early Mediaeval Antiquities in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, Vol. I, Washington, 1962, nos. 21-25. 95


Rectangular make-up box Islamic, reign of the Mamluk Sultan Qa’it Bay, second half of the 15th century A.D. Ivory and silver L: 12.5 cm - W: 7.1 cm



Complete box with lid, remarkably preserved; partially chipped on the edges; two of four inside objects now lost. Ancient ivory, having acquired over time a beautiful reddish brown color; silver openwork decoration, slightly deformed in some places, attached to the lid by tiny nails still in place. Box and lid each carved from a large single fragment of ivory. The box takes the shape of a small chest, but without a closure system; the inner edges of the box and of the lid are shaped to fit the dimensions of one another and thus allow a perfect closure of the box. Seen from above, the lid has three long narrow surfaces, rectangular in shape, which are finely decorated with silver openwork plaques. The central element bears an Arabic inscription indicating the name of an Egyptian Mamluk Sultan, Qa’it Bay (or Qaitbay). The side plaques match the same geometric floral decoration that appears on the other faces of the box. This exquisitely crafted decoration is composed of perfectly executed linear patterns, forming identical motifs continuously repeated; stylized starshaped flowers, triangles, zigzags, lozenges, etc. are represented regularly on the walls of the box. The decoration, which was certainly made using a predefined template, is fashioned so precisely that the incised pattern remains unchanged even when fitting the lid the other way round on the box. At that same time, similar ornaments, a combination of plant and geometric patterns, appear in toreutics, for instance; the surfaces of candelabra, chests, hammered metal dishes and vessels of various shapes often feature polychromatic decorations, inlaid with other metals representing related motifs. The box contained four objects, carefully placed in areas specifically carved and hollowed. Two 98

small cupola-shaped ivory tops are still in place; now missing are an elliptical object and a larger one which, seen in profile, also had the shape of a cupola. Although ivory boxes and pyxides are minor artistic pieces regularly found in Islamic art (simple boxes with a metal closure system, pencil holders, etc.), the absence of close parallels makes this example difficult to interpret. According to a perfectly plausible hypothesis, it would have been a toiletry item for women; the two circular sections would have been intended for a blush and/ or a powder and covered with the cupola-shaped tops for better conservation; in the central hollow and in the larger end hollow, the owner would have kept a comb and a brush respectively. Despite a few partially enigmatic characters, the inscription is clear. Its transcription is: Mawlânâ al-sultân al-malik al-Ashraf Qa’it Bay ’azza nasruhu. The translation is: “Our master, the Sultan, King al-Ashraf Qa’it Bay, may his victory be glorious.” Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay (born in the Caucasus, in Circassia, ca. 1416-18, died in Cairo in 1496) was a Mamluk Sultan of Egypt (Burji dynasty) from 1468 to 1496; this is the longest reign of a Mamluk Sultan of this dynasty. His political and military qualities enabled him to stabilize the economy of the country (engagement in trade with Europe) and especially to consolidate the northern boundaries with the Ottoman Empire (after many years of war, he forced the Ottomans into a long-term truce in 1491). But he is best remembered for the spectacular building projects that he sponsored, leaving his mark as an architectural patron on Aleppo, Damascus, Mecca, Medina and especially in Egypt, in Cairo and Alexandria, where he erected a fort on the site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria. Struck by the poverty of Mecca and its citizens during his pilgrimage in 1472, Qa’it Bay devoted a substantial portion of his private fortune to the alle99

viation of their plight; through such measures, he gained a reputation for piety, charity, and royal endowment. The presence of the name Qa’it Bay gives us a specific clue for the dating of this box, which was manufactured in Egypt during the late 15th century. The name of the Sultan also appears on many other objects of minor artistic value, such as ivory plaques, tiles and so on. Bone and ivory were used from early ancient times for the manufacture of artistic and household objects; because of their organic similarity and given their consistency, they were worked using similar techniques, with a simple knife or other woodwork tools. Cut in slices or in plaques, ivory and bone were widely utilized as materials for modeling ornaments and inlays, particularly in woodwork. The most evident technical limitation in the use of ivory or bone was naturally imposed by the size of the bone or, for the ivory, by the size of the tusk of the pachyderm. Much rarer, ivory, which was imported into the Mediterranean and into the Near East from Africa (especially from Ethiopia, via Egypt) and from India, quickly became a material for luxury items, whereas bone (coming from the carcasses of animals killed in hunting or for other economic necessities), available everywhere and at any time, was most often used for common objects of lower value, even though there is no lack of beautiful bone art works.

Provenance Ex American private collection assembled in Switzerland since 1982. Acquired in 2010.

Bibliography CUTLER A., The Craft of Ivory: Sources, Techniques and Uses in the Mediterranean World, 200-1400 A.D., Washington, 1985. Ivoires: De l’Orient ancien aux temps modernes, Paris, 2004, pp. 99 ff. ROSSER-OWEN M., Ivory: 8th to 17th Centuries: Treasures of the Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar, Doha, 2004 (see especially nos. 2, 5, 6, 9 and 10). VON FOLSACH K., Islamic Art: The David Collection, Copenhagen, 1990, no. 281 (small ivory box), no. 284 (ivory plaque bearing the name of Qa’it Bay). 100


Credits Selection of objects Ali Aboutaam and Hicham Aboutaam Project manager Hélène Yubero, Geneva Research Phoenix Ancient Art, Geneva Antiquities Research Center, New York Graphic concept mostra-design.com, Geneva Photography Hughes Dubois, Paris and Bruxelles Stefan Hagen, New York (2, 10, 11, 14) André Longchamp, Geneva (3) Printing CA Design, Wanchai, Hong Kong In New York Hicham Aboutaam Electrum, Exclusive Agent for Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. 47 East 66th Street New York, NY 10065, USA T +1 212 288 7518 F +1 212 288 7121 E info@phoenixancientart.com In Geneva Ali Aboutaam Michael C. Hedqvist Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. 6, rue Verdaine - Case postale 3516 1211 Genève 3, Suisse T +41 22 318 80 10 F +41 22 310 03 88 E paa@phoenixancientart.com www.phoenixancientart.com ©2012 PHOENIX ANCIENT ART S.A. 102


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Crystal IV - 2012  

It is a unique occasion when objects of ancient art that possess rare aspects of both stellar quality and art historical importance can be a...

Crystal IV - 2012  

It is a unique occasion when objects of ancient art that possess rare aspects of both stellar quality and art historical importance can be a...