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GENEVA – NEW YORK 2015 / 31 / EN
























PYXIS WITH THREE LABORS OF HERACLES Attic, late 6th – early 5th century B.C. Ceramic H: 4.3 cm – D: 7.5 cm This very simple pyxis is cylindrical and without handles. Its overall shape recalls that of a reel, because of the small ridge in relief painted in black around the lid and the base. The two elements composing the vessel are a clear match, since the circumference of the lid, slightly wider, is perfectly adapted to that of the vertical walls of the box.

on the body of the vessel, there is another scene painted on the top of the lid; an Amazon, holding two spears, walks towards the left, next to her horse. This image can also be linked, though less clearly, to the cycle of the Labors of Heracles and, more specifically, to the hero’s battle with Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, after he had stolen her magical girdle.

The body of the vessel is decorated with three scenes, painted in the black-figure technique, taken from a great mythological story recounting the tasks (“Labors”) that Heracles, the most famous Greek hero, had to perform as an atonement for the unintentional killing of the children he had had with Megara, his first wife.

Pyxides generally were small, circular boxes intended to contain small objects or to be used as cosmetic boxes. They could vary in type (with convex walls, with a knobbed lid, with three feet, etc.). The simple, cylindrical shape, like that of our example, is of Corinthian origin (it appeared in Corinth during the second half of the 7th century B.C.); it was still widespread in Attica in the late 6th and 5th century B.C.

Among the twelve canonical Labors of Heracles, the painter chose to represent the hero fighting the Nemean Lion, the Erymanthian Boar and the Cretan Bull. More than for narrative purposes, this choice would have been influenced by the iconographic similarity of the scenes and by the limitations of the vessel’s shape. Each composition shows the naked Heracles in full action, his back bent, fighting the creatures with his bare hands and endeavoring to make them submit. The three scenes are separated by the attributes of the hero hanging from the upper frieze, namely a bow and quiver, a lion skin and a club. In addition to these three Labors represented


This vessel is of an excellent technical level. But from a stylistic point of view, the painting is slightly hasty and hesitant; the compositions, though correct and perfectly clear, are extremely succinct. More than by the competition of the red-figure style, which at that time already attracted the most renowned artists, this phenomenon can be explained by the great success of contemporary Attic pottery, which led the potters and painters to standardize, so as to respond to the increasing demand, especially for small-sized vessels such as lekythoi, cups and pyxides.


” Each composition shows the mythological hero Heracles in full action, naked, his back bent, fighting the creatures with his bare hands and endeavoring to make them submit.“

CONSERVATION Complete and in very good condition; minor chips and superficial wear; paint now partially flaked off or faded. Large turning traces. PROVENANCE Ex-Thetis Foundation collection, Geneva, Switzerland, acquired before 1970. BIBLIOGRAPHY On Corinthian pyxides, see: PAYNE H., Necrocorinthia: A Study of Corinthian Art in the Archaic Period, Oxford, 1931, pp. 293 ff. On Attic black figures at that time, see: BOARDMAN J., Athenian Black-Figure Vases: A Handbook, London, 1974, pp. 146 ff. ROBERTS S.R., The Attic Pyxis, Chicago, 1978, pl. 9-18. http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/xdb/ASP/testSearch.asp 6


FRAGMENTARY RELIEF WITH WOMEN Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, ca. 1985-1795 B.C. Limestone Dim: 36 x 28 cm This rectangular fragment is adorned with a scene featuring figures represented in very low relief and richly embellished with a variety of pigments (ocher, black, light blue, green and brown). The type of stone, the style, the proportions, the dimensions of the figures and the rendering of some hieroglyphic signs (especially those for the sea, the hoe and the snake) suggest that the fragment belonged to the wall decoration of the same funeral group as piece no. 9 in this catalog. The image still retains parts of two registers, unfortunately incomplete. The upper scene shows a large offering table delineated by a green border. It is abundantly laden with food, including bread and/or cakes, plants, the long black legs of a wading bird, poultry, a leg of meat and the head of an ox. On the left appears the suspended body of another plucked bird.

two locks falling over her shoulders; she holds a flabellum to keep insects away. The inscription does not indicate her name, but simply the words “his daughter”; she is therefore a daughter of the owner of the tomb. Behind her, the two women each wear a long white dress, which leaves the breast partly uncovered, and a tripartite wig. With their left hand, they each hold a flowering stem of papyrus, a plant known for its aphrodisiac powers. Since they are not mentioned as daughters, one can imagine that they were two concubines of the deceased, which would confirm the inscription (partially faded) behind the second woman, “his beloved”. This fresco dates to the Middle Kingdom, probably the 12th Dynasty, as piece no. 9.

The lower scene shows three female figures (characterized as such by the pale color of their skin), whose busts only are still visible. On the left stands a little girl, her hair arranged with



” The scene is represented in very low relief and richly embellished with a variety of pigments (ocher, black, light blue, green and brown), which sublimate this funerary ornamentation.“

CONSERVATION Good condition, with abundant remains of ocher, black, light blue, green and brown pigments. Some chips; faces pitted, perhaps intentionally. PROVENANCE Ex-private collection of a European art dealer of paintings. BIBLIOGRAPHY On tombs in the Middle Kingdom, see: KLEBS L., Die Reliefs und Malereien des Mittleren Reiches, Hildesheim-Zurich, 1990. MANNICHE L., L’art égyptien, Paris, 1994, pp. 100 ff. NEWBERRY P.E. et al., Beni Hasan, 4 Vol., London, 1893-1900. 10


HELMET OF THE ILLYRIAN TYPE Greek, 5th century B.C. Bronze H: 25.4 cm This helmet was modeled from a single, rather thick sheet of bronze. The two parallel ridges that run along the crown, from the forehead to the nape, were used to attach the crest and to strengthen the central part of the helmet. A hook soldered above the forehead and a ring (made of bronze wire) inserted on the nape were also part of this device and would have served to fasten and maintain the crest. The paragnathides (riveted pieces for the protection of the cheeks) are triangular and long enough to protect the chin. At the front of the headgear, they circumscribe an almost rectangular opening for the face; compared to the Corinthian helmet, which left only the eyes and mouth uncovered, this larger opening afforded a different balance between effective protection and a wider field of vision. At the back, the rim of the helmet is flared to protect the nape of the neck, while still allowing the warrior to move freely in all directions. At ear level, the rim forms a pointed notch. The small holes pierced at the end of the paragnathides were used to attach the strap passing under the chin. There is no evidence to establish whether this headgear was provided with an inner lining made of leather or felt, making it more comfortable to wear. Unlike other related examples, the surface of the helmet is undecorated, except for a line that embellishes the borders around the face. The linear outline and the rounded shape are nevertheless characterized by an admirable unity and harmony.


In archeological literature, this type of helmet is known as the “Illyrian� helmet (it owes its name to ancient Illyria, a province situated in modernday Dalmatia and Albania, where many examples were found). Its distinctive features are the twin ridges and the attachment device for the crest, together with the nearly rectangular opening at the front. The original location of these helmets is still unknown, but they are thought to come from a Peloponnesian city, where they would have been created in the late 8th century B.C. The first known similar examples can be dated to around 700 B.C. and were excavated in Olympia. At the beginning, there were two manufacturing techniques: some helmets were still made of two separated halves riveted between the ribs (a process that was later abandoned), while others were already hammered from a single sheet of bronze. This significant technological improvement gave the warrior better protection from the blows of the enemy. These helmets constituted a very successful design, as several specimens were found in Illyrian necropolises dated to the 4th century, sometimes decorated with golden strips riveted around the facial opening. H. Pflug suggested a typological classification of Illyrian helmets into three groups. The overall outline, the triangular shape of the paragnathides, the notches at ear level and the flared rim at the back indicate that our example belongs to the last type of these helmets (type IIIA, with a flat edge), perhaps at an advanced stage of its development (5th century B.C.).


” On this type of helmet, the larger opening around the face afforded a different balance between effective protection and a wider field of vision.“

CONSERVATION Complete, in excellent condition; minor cracks in the metal and small repairs. Brown-colored surface partially covered with green patina. Traces of the original golden color of the bronze still visible. PROVENANCE Ex-US private collection, New York, acquired on July 8th, 1992. BIBLIOGRAPHY On hoplite equipment, see: SNODGRASS A.M., Arms and Armor of the Greeks, Baltimore, 1967, pp. 48-60. On Illyrian helmets, see: Antike Helme: Sammlung Lipperheide und andere Bestände des Antikenmuseums Berlin, Mainz/Rhine, 1988, pp. 42-64. MERRONY M., Mougins Museum of Classical Art, Mougins, 2011, pp. 182-234. PFLUG H., Schutz und Zier: Helme aus dem Antikenmuseum Berlin und Waffen anderer Sammlung, Basel, 1989, p. 19. 14


GLASS INLAY WITH A GRIFFIN Egyptian, Ptolemaic period, 2nd – 1st century B.C. Opaque and transparent glass Dim: 1.9 x 1.7 x 0.25 cm Plaques such as this, though miniature in size, can be considered as real masterpieces of ancient glassware. According to the latest studies, they would have served as inlaid elements in the decoration of precious pieces of furniture (chairs, footrests, chests, altars, etc.) or of sarcophagi.

incorporated into a mass of monochrome glass (transparent dark blue here). The bar was then heated to achieve the final, compact and uniform appearance. Finally, vertical “slices” were cut to obtain several plaques adorned with a virtually identical pattern.

This inlay represents a griffin, a monstrous and hybrid creature, with a lion’s body and an eagle’s wings, which appears only occasionally in the Egyptian repertoire. It would have been introduced by the Persians, who dominated Egypt in the late 6th and 5th century B.C. and until just before the arrival of Alexander the Great.

Among the most common subjects that the Ptolemaic glaziers used for these inlay plaques, one should mention traditional Egyptian imagery related to the religious world (the Apis bull, the goddess Hathor, the was scepter, the udjat eye, Thoth as a baboon or an ibis, etc.) or to daily life (a young Black attacked by a wild animal, two prisoners back to back), not forgetting traditional Greek motifs (various kinds of theater masks).

The monster is depicted here in a very special way, with an intense polychromy and formal richness. It stands upright, its forequarters and head in yellow glass seen in profile, the left foreleg raised, the mouth open so as to reveal the fangs, the wings spread. The hindquarters, which are seen as if from above, differ in a pale green color. The anatomical details (muscles, coat) are in blue and blackish-blue glass thread. The wing plumage (zigzag glass threads representing each feather one by one) and the head (mane, eye, ear, skin folds) are rendered with rare precision and remarkable originality. The very long and elaborate production technique for these glass inlays required special skills, which at that time were the unique specialty of Egyptian glaziers. According to the pattern that he wished to achieve, the craftsman had to assemble a small bar of rectangular section (the dimensions here do not reach two centimeters), composed of opaque glass rods of various colors (depending on the subjects, the rods were as thin as threads), which were



Images of griffins are very rare. Nevertheless, our piece has an extremely close parallel (housed in the Corning Museum of Glass), which was probably cut from the same glass bar. Another inlay plaque, with a light background, is decorated with a griffin, but the iconography is very different; it belongs to the Ernesto Wolf Collection. CONSERVATION Complete and in excellent condition, but reglued and repolished. Superficial tiny holes, minor chips. PROVENANCE Ex-Achille Groppi collection, Basel, acquired in Egypt between 1920 and 1940. PUBLISHED LOEBEN C.E. and WIESE A.B., Köstlichkeiten aus Kairo! Die ägyptische Sammlung des Konditorei- und Kaffeehaus-Besitzers Achille Groppi (1890-1949), Basel – Hanover, 2008, pp. 73 and 170, no. 22.

BIBLIOGRAPHY On some parallels, see: GOLDSTEIN S.M., Pre-Roman and Early Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, 1979, pp. 234-235, no. 681. STERN E.M. and SCHLICK-NOLTE B., Early Glass of the Ancient World, 1600 B.C-50 A.D.: Ernesto Wolf Collection, Ostfildern, 1994, pp. 392-393, no. 137. On glass inlay plaques in general, see: BIANCHI R.S., Those Ubiquitous Glass Inlays from Pharaonic Egypt, in Journal of Glass Studies, 25, 1983, pp. 29-35. NENNA M.-D., Les éléments d’incrustation: Une industrie égyptienne du verre, in Alessandria e il mondo ellenistico-romano (Atti del II Congresso Internazionale italo-egiziano), Rome, 1995, pp. 377-384. NENNA M.-D. and ARVEILLER-DULONG V., Les verres antiques du Musée du Louvre: Vol. III, Parures, instruments et éléments d’incrustation, Paris, 2011, pp. 385 ff. On the technique of production, see: SARPELLON G., Miniature di vetro: Murrine 1838-1924, Venice, 1990, pp. 71-93 and 126-138.


CYCLADIC BOWL Greek, (Early Cycladic II), ca. 2700-2200 B.C. Marble H: 5.3 cm - D: 14.3 cm This bowl is remarkable for its excellent state of preservation and craftsmanship. It was carved from a block of white marble and shaped as an almost perfect hemispherical vessel. The surface is smooth and now has a yellowish patina. The external profile is convex; inside, a groove emphasizes the horizontal, thick, rounded rim, where it shows traces of tool marks from the carving of the marble. The bottom of the piece presents a circular depression which forms the base and offers stability. Owing to its precise, fine shape, as well as its depth, this bowl is a good example of this type of open vessels (plain bowls with an average diameter of 14-20 cm). Together with kandiles, jars and beakers, plain bowls are one of the most distinctive forms of Cycladic vessels. As the design is simpler and the shape is shallower than kandila-type vessels, the execution of such bowls required less labor and time. The number of plain bowls excavated shows that these vessels were definitely more affordable and widespread. Although their exact purpose is unclear, their shape made them versatile; they could be used not only for storage



but also for mixing. Most of the examples whose provenance is known were found in necropolises, often along with marble figurines; this suggests that they could have served as cult vessels during funerary banquets and that they were left inside the tomb as dedications. One must not, however, exclude the possibility of their use in everyday life; some could be used as cups and containers for food and liquids. Nevertheless, it may be observed that the thick rim on our example might have rendered the vessel impractical for drinking. This particular piece bears traces of an intense red pigment on its interior, suggesting that it was used as a mortar for grinding the raw pigment (some examples have been found along with their pestles). The red color was believed to have regenerative powers; the pigment (red ocher or ferric oxide, hematite) was mixed with water, oil or animal fat in cosmetic preparations. It was also employed by Cycladic sculptors as paint for their marble figures. Bowls with traces of red color are most common, but green, blue and black are also found on Cycladic marble vessels.

CONSERVATION Perfectly intact. Traces of red pigment on the interior. Deposits of lime incrustation. Some scratches on both exterior and interior surfaces. PROVENANCE Ex-US private collection; acquired from Henri Kamer Gallery, 1964. BIBLIOGRAPHY GETZ-GENTLE P., Stone Vessels of the Cyclades in the Early Bronze Age, University Park, Pennsylvania, 1996, pp. 97-105 and 178, pl. 50-55. GETZ-PREZIOSI P., Early Cycladic Art in North American Collections, Richmond (Virginia), 1987, pp. 300-304, nos. 122-126. THIMME J. (ed.), Art and Culture of the Cyclades, Karlsruhe, 1977, pp. 318-319 and 507-509, nos. 296-305. 19


NECKLACE WITH A PENDANT IN THE SHAPE OF A BUTTERFLY Greek, late 4th or 3rd century B.C. Gold and garnet D (pendant): 4.5 cm This necklace is composed of three long, very thin and beautifully made gold chains; a large pendant hangs from the chains. The pendant depicts a specific scene, quite rare in Classical iconography, although it perfectly reflects, at the same time, the natural and open relationship that ancient Greeks had with the wildlife surrounding them: a butterfly with spread wings gathering nectar from a large, circular flower. The heart-shaped head of the butterfly is decorated with an inlay carved from garnet; the polychromy was probably embellished by other inlays of semi-precious stone, glass or enamel, which were inserted in the wings. The flower, whose shape recalls that of a daisy, is of hammered gold, bulging slightly. It is composed of three rows of overlapping, rounded and pointed petals, their edges highlighted by juxtaposed lines of small, gold beads. A disk-shaped center, entirely decorated with granulation, imitates the pollen or nectar of the flower that the butterfly appears to gather by using its rounded proboscis (neatly fashioned by the goldsmith). The anatomy of the butterfly is elaborate and accurate. The large, symmetrical wings are divided into a large, rounded upper part and a thinner, shorter lower part. The tripartite body, comprising the triangular head, the straight thorax and the spindle-shaped abdomen, is decorated with horizontal elements. Wires terminating in spirals (feet?) descend along the abdomen.

Such adornments were generally linked to funerary contexts. In this case, one can assume that the owner would have been a wealthy woman of the Greek society from the early Hellenistic period. Although rarely represented, butterflies have a meaning that can be related to the chthonic sphere. According to a popular Greek and Roman belief, the butterfly, referred to as “psyche” (ψυχη) by Aristotle in his History of Animals (IV, 7; V, 19), symbolized the soul leaving the body after death. At the same time, “psyche” translates, in its primary meaning, the terms corresponding to “soul, mind, breath of life”. Furthermore, like other insects undergoing a metamorphosis, butterflies start from a larval caterpillar stage, going through the pupal stage to be reborn as butterflies, insects with a brief life and an erratic yet graceful flight; such processes were perfectly familiar to the Ancients. Butterflies are reminiscent of a very famous myth from the Hellenistic and Roman period, the tale of Eros and Psyche, transcribed in literature only much later, in the 2nd century A.D., by Apuleius in Metamorphoses. Eros, the god of love, by uniting with Psyche (the deity of the soul, provided with butterfly wings), made her immortal, but only after she found herself confronted with countless labors – including a descent into the Underworld – so as to purify herself of wanting to gaze on the face of her lover.

The closest parallel for this example is a necklace from Panticapaeum (an ancient Greek city on the eastern shore of modern-day Crimea), also formed of a chain and a polychromatic pendant in the shape of a butterfly, except that the insect does not rest on a flower.



” The butterfly with spread wings gathering nectar from a large, circular flower perfectly reflects the natural and open relationship that ancient Greeks had with the wildlife.“


Complete and in excellent condition. The inlays that adorned the wings and one of the antennae of the butterfly are now lost. The wings and the flower petals are slightly deformed. The chain attachment system is well preserved (cylinder soldered horizontally to the back of the flower). PROVENANCE

Ex-Schaefer collection, Germany, 1960s.  BIBLIOGRAPHY

HOFFMANN H. and DAVIDSON P.F., Greek Gold: Jewelry from the Age of Alexander, Boston, 1965, pp. 142-143. TROFIMOVA A.A. (ed.), Greeks on the Black Sea: Ancient Art from the Hermitage, Los Angeles, 2007, no. 41. 22


MOSAIC WITH A MARKET SCENE Roman, 2nd – 3rd century A.D. Stone and glass paste tesserae Dim: 314 x 320 cm This mosaic displays a rich polychromatic decoration with a large variety of tesserae, ranging from beige-white to reddish-brown colours, including yellow, green, gray and black. Small cracks reveal the structure of the ground on which the tesserae were assembled (brownish coating).

One should note the special attention paid by the mosaicist to the diverse elements represented in the scene, from the realistic details of the faces to the folds of the garments. Equally, one may admire the differing skin pigments of the figures. Even shadows can be seen on the floor behind the figures.

The rich and abundant colors used here allowed the mosaicist to play with various shades and gradations of tones and to achieve a highly detailed and deep, almost three-dimensional rendering of the figural elements represented in the mosaic.

As for the outer border, it is strongly emphasized by a plant pattern composed of flowers and fruit in a dense green foliage. Small winged erotes, each armed with a bow and arrow, are depicted on each of the four sides of the mosaic. They hunt a variety of prey, such as peacock, partridge, deer, panther and even lion (one is already wounded by an arrow shot by one of the erotes).

The central ornamentation shows a market scene. Eight male figures of different ages, each dressed in a short tunic or in a toga, are positioned harmoniously on all four sides of the square central panel. Each carries or presents a different product: a hare, a young wild boar, a deer, a brace of pheasants, a kid goat, a rooster and a hen, a brace of partridges, fruit and/or buns in baskets. All these elements embody products offered by Mother Earth, whose personification is symbolized at the center of the mosaic through a female face. Together with the theme, the inscription in ancient Greek can leave no doubt about her identification: ΓΗ.



In the corners, the traditional faces and masks are present; two men and, perhaps, two women are featured in opposite corners. Their plantlike hair fits perfectly into the thematic framework of the mosaic, representing pastoral divinities. The very large size, the theme (a genre scene) and the technique of this mosaic suggest that it was produced in the eastern part of the Roman Empire. Large-scale figural representations are actually typically Levantine productions. Our example probably decorated a private residence and would have been specially commissioned by the owners, because mythological scenes were much more common than daily life representations.

� The mosaicist paid special attention to the diverse elements represented in the scene, from the realistic details of the faces to the folds of the garments.“

CONSERVATION Virtually intact and in excellent condition. Some breaks and possible restorations. Wide range of colors obtained by the use of various types of stone and glass paste. PROVENANCE Ex-Lebanese private collection, Beirut-Paris, collected in 1982; acquired by the current owner in 1990, on the British art market (London). BIBLIOGRAPHY CIMOK F., Antioch Mosaics: A Corpus, Istanbul, 2000, pp. 150 (Eros hunting), 201 (head in a plant composition), 277 (personification of Mother Earth), 297 (various animals) and 306-307 (birds and quadrupeds in a plant composition). DUNBABIN K.M.D., Mosaics of the Greek and Roman World, Cambridge, 1999. LEVI D., Antioch Mosaic Pavements, Princeton, 1947. 26


BOX MIRROR WITH THE MYTHOLOGICAL GOLDEN FLEECE Greek, second half of the 4th century B.C. Bronze D: 15.5 cm This bronze piece is composed of a mirror and its lid. The outer part of the lid is decorated with a beautiful image in high relief, and concentric circles in low relief adorn the bottom of the mirror. The scene was carved in low relief on a bronze plaque and soldered to the mirror in ancient times; however, as attested for many other contemporary mirrors, it might have first belonged to another object. It represents one of the great heroes of Greek mythology, Jason, famous for his role as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece: according to the Epic poem, in order to regain the throne of his father (Aeson, dispossessed by his half-brother Pelias), Jason left for Colchis (a region located on the eastern coast of the Black Sea, centered on present-day western Georgia) with his companions; there, the king Aites (the fleece was given to him by Phrixus) promised to give him the fleece if he could perform three tasks. Jason succeeded in the challenges with the help of Medea (the daughter of Aites and Jason’s future wife), took the fleece and went back to Thessaly, where he reacquired his father’s kingdom after killing his uncle, once again thanks to a trick by Medea. Our relief, which illustrates an episode of this long legendary voyage, represents Jason standing as a young athlete, quickly moving to the left. Except for a cloak that flutters in the wind behind him, he is entirely nude. He is armed with a sword, hanging from his shoulder, and with a spear; as defensive weapons, he wears a helmet of the Attic type and a large, richly incised round


shield. Between his feet lies the ram’s fleece, which, according to the myth, was guarded by a serpent/dragon, and which Jason is about to steal: the incised tree behind Jason's arm would have represented the shrub in which the monster was hidden. This mirror is of excellent technical and artistic quality: the composition of the scene is well balanced, and the workmanship is neat and accurate. Chronologically, this object belongs to the second half of the 4th century B.C. It can easily be related to other bronze reliefs of this period, which decorated other mirrors, situlae, helmets’ cheek guards, large vases, etc. CONSERVATION Complete and in very good condition, minor cracks and small repairs. Surface covered with a beautiful, uniform green patina. Small fragments of the relief now lost. No visible traces of hinges or other closure systems. PROVENANCE Ex-American private collection, collected in the 1960s. BIBLIOGRAPHY COMSTOCK M. and VERMEULE C., Greek, Etruscan & Roman Bronzes in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Boston, 1971, pp. 250 ff. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae (LIMC), Zurich, Vol. V, Zurich-Munich, 1981, s. v. Iason, nos. 30-47. MITTEN D. G. and DOERINGER S. F., Master Bronzes from the Classical World, Mainz/Rhine, 1968, p. 115, no. 112. ROLLEY C., Les bronzes grecs, Fribourg, 1983, pp. 162-176 and 239, no. 283.


� Jason, one of the great heroes of Greek mythology, is famous for his role as the leader of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece.“



FRAGMENTARY RELIEF WITH SERVANTS Egyptian, Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty, ca. 1985-1795 B.C. Limestone Dim: 52 x 32 cm This fragment, almost rectangular in shape, presents a scene carved in very low relief (the details are highlighted by a copious and precise use of paint) and some lightly engraved inscriptions that were originally painted in blue. The artistic quality and the attitude of the figures are quite admirable and recall the scenes from the Saqqara mastabas dated to the Old Kingdom. The hieroglyphs, however, indicate later names, which were more commonly used in the Middle Kingdom, during the 12th Dynasty. This fragment no doubt came from the tomb of a dignitary who lived in the early 2nd millennium B.C. Both stylistically and typologically, these frescoes are as remarkable as the contemporary Middle Egyptian examples from Beni Hasan and Deir el-Bersha. The image still retains parts of two registers, unfortunately incomplete. In the upper scene, three men kneel before the owner of the tomb, who would have stood in front of them. Their names are no longer visible, but the gesture of their arms (the left hand is brought towards the chest) is a sign of respect, showing that they were three servants working for the deceased. The last figure in the frieze represents a young woman with a paler skin, dressed in a long white tunic that does not entirely hide her breast. She is richly adorned with bracelets on her wrists and ankles. In her left hand, she probably holds a lotus flower. She is the daughter of the deceased, whose name, Sat-Tepet-Ihou (the inscription is engraved in front of her), is reminiscent of a minor deity of Middle Egypt, documented during the Middle Kingdom (Tepet-Ihou).


The lower scene begins with a standing male figure carrying a basket of fruit and vegetables. The inscription identifies him as “the gardener Khoumhotep”. His name, like that of the young woman, is typical of the 12th Dynasty and often found in contemporary Egypt (some nomarchs from Beni Hasan bear the same name, for instance). While only the heads of the other three figures are still visible, the inscriptions above them indicate their names: Sa-Renenhoutet, Iti and Rensy, other typical names of the Middle Kingdom, thus confirming the date of these reliefs. This funeral relief probably came from the same decorative group as piece no. 2 in this catalog. CONSERVATION Good condition, with abundant remains of ocher, black, light blue, green and brown pigments. Some chips; faces pitted, perhaps intentionally. PROVENANCE Ex-private collection of a European art dealer of paintings. PUBLISHED Art of the Two Lands: Egypt from 4000 B.C. to 1000 A.D., New York, 2006, pp. 62 ff., no 17. BIBLIOGRAPHY On tombs in the Middle Kingdom, see: KLEBS L., Die Reliefs und Malereien des Mittleren Reiches, Hildesheim-Zurich, 1990. MANNICHE L., L’art égyptien, Paris, 1994, pp. 100 ff. NEWBERRY P.E. et al., Beni Hasan, 4 Vol., London, 1893-1900.


� The artistic quality and the attitude of the figures are quite admirable and recall the scenes from the Saqqara mastabas dated to the Old Kingdom.�



PLATE DECORATED WITH A RICHLY HARNESSED HORSE Sassanid, 6th – 7th century A.D. Silver D: 21.5 cm This vessel, outstanding for its solidity and weight, was hammered from a cast silver bar. According to a quite unusual process for the Sassanid silversmiths, the decoration here is simply incised and has no engraved, embossed or gold element. The plate is circular and shallow; the base has no foot and does not provide good balance. The rim is rounded, with no real lip. As often in Sassanid art, the representation is highly stylized. This example is characterized by great simplicity (one may even wonder whether it is entirely finished) and by a wide use of the compass and of the ruler, which enabled the toreutic artist to trace the lines more quickly, while maintaining a remarkable formal accuracy. The inner surface of the vessel, which has no subdivisions, no ground line, no landscape and no vegetal elements, is simply decorated with a horse that walks towards the right in a proud and solemn manner. Its strong and thick-set proportions are typical of contemporary Sassanid art. The harness is richly detailed (bridle, bit, saddle, the disk-like phalerae, the decorative ribbons on the tail, head and neck). The use of the horse as a unique decorative motif is very rare in the Sassanid world and is only attested in glyptics and on one other silver cup, slightly different in type (provided with a diskshaped foot and with ribs on the outside). In the Zoroastrian tradition, the horse belonged to the family of beneficent herbivores. Given its major role in Epic poetry, the animal was closely associated with royalty, as evidenced in this example by the presence of the fluttering ribbons adorning its neck and tail.



The Sassanids ruled Iran from 224 A.D. (end of the domination of the Parthian kings) until the Arab invasion of 651 A.D. This period was a golden age for Iran, in terms of art, politics and religion. The Sassanid Empire extended throughout the Near East, as it is still referred to today (Iran, Iraq, Armenia, southern Caucasus, southern Central Asia, western Afghanistan, part of Pakistan, eastern regions of Turkey, Syrian territories, part of the Arabian Peninsula). Historians consider this period as one of the most important in the history of Iran; in many ways, it represents the highest level of ancient Persian civilization, just before the Muslim conquest and the consequent adoption of the doctrine of Muhammad. The cultural influence of the Sassanids spread far beyond the borders of their empire, reaching Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Far East, and played a role not only in the emerging Islamic culture and civilization but also in Byzantine, Asian and European art of the early Middle Ages. CONSERVATION Complete and in excellent condition. Superficial wear and traces of dents. Oxidations and greenish patina on the outside. PROVENANCE Sotheby’s London, November 14, 1966, Lot 29; Swiss private collection. BIBLIOGRAPHY GUNTER A.C. and JETT P., Ancient Iranian Metalwork in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992, pp. 139-141, no. 20. Les Perses sassanides: Fastes d’un empire oublié (224-642), Paris, 2006, pp. 69 ff.


RITUAL TABLE TOP Byzantine, 6th – 7th century A.D. Marble Dim: 165 x 90 x 5.5 cm This large table top, rectangular in shape, shows no trace of a support, but the dimensions of the object suggest that there were at least four small columns attached at the corners. The inside of the top surface, slightly recessed, is entirely bordered by a flat and smooth, bandlike double edge. Below, the marble is smooth and well finished, though not polished. This table is aniconic, its unique decoration consisting of a Byzantine Greek inscription engraved on one of the short sides. The characters used, which can be dated to between the 6th and the first half of the 7th century A.D., enable us to specify the date of the table, i.e. during the first centuries of the Byzantine period. The meaning of the words is rather enigmatic and the highly abbreviated expression does not seem to have any parallels in liturgical texts: “God of the flawless Virgin and retinue”. The small central break probably contained a symbol or two additional letters. Aniconic and carved marble tables were very popular in the early Byzantine period. Their use throughout the Near East (eastern Anatolia, northern Syria), Greece and elsewhere in the Balkans, as well as in Italy, makes it difficult to determine their production center with precision. Such tables come in various shapes: round, horseshoe (or Σ-shaped), rectangular, with a decorated edge, etc. Given that they were widespread, they would have been “mass-produced” in large workshops. Their purpose, sacred or secular, was certainly not unequivocal and would have varied from place to place and/or as required. For instance, in a domestic setting,


a marble table would have served in a dining room; in an ecclesiastical context, it is documented that such rectangular marble plaques were mainly used as altar tables. There are many Byzantine churches where several tables of various shapes were used, often simultaneously. Our example, whose size corresponds to the average dimensions of this type of furniture, was perhaps intended for the religious sphere, as the inscribed text (which mentions both God and the Virgin) appears to confirm; however, it has no precise parallel in contemporary epigraphy. Its rectangular shape makes it quite reasonable to assume that this table top was part of an altar, although no element can actually prove such a hypothesis. CONSERVATION Complete and in excellent condition, but reglued; minor repairs. Superficial marks, probably resulting from use in ancient times. PROVENANCE Ex-Swiss private collection, 1990; private collection, acquired on the German art market in 2002. BIBLIOGRAPHY CHALKIA E., Le mense paleocristiane: Tipologia e funzioni delle mense secondarie nel culto paleocristiano, Vatican City, 1991, pp. 54-55 and 75-76. FIRATELI N., La sculpture byzantine figurée au Musée archéologique d’Istanbul, Paris, 1990, pp. 91 ff, nos. 171-177. MARTINIANI-REBER M. (ed.), Antiquités paléochrétiennes et byzantines: Collections du Musée d’art et d’histoire, Geneva, 2011, pp. 30 ff., no. 8. ROUX G., Tables chrétiennes en marbre découvertes à Salamine, in Anthologie salaminienne: Vol. 4, Salamine de Chypre, Paris, 1973, pp. 133-196.


� The purpose, sacred or secular, was certainly not unequivocal and would have varied from place to place and/or as required. In the present case, this table top was maybe part of an altar.“


HERM WITH THE PORTRAIT OF A MAN OF LETTERS Roman, 1st – 2nd century A.D. Marble H: 54 cm This head mounted on a herm (which summarily depicts the shape of the shoulders) represents a man marked by age, as indicated by the wrinkles visible on the forehead and on the cheeks. His hair, freely composed of a multitude of deeply incised, thick and wavy locks, fully covers his head; it is also characterized by the presence, in the middle of the forehead, of a curly forelock. The man has a long, thick beard, on which fall the two curling tips of his mustache. The mustache partly hides the small mouth with thick lips. The eyes, surmounted by arched eyebrows, convey a severe expression. The shape of the beard and of the mustache recall other examples dated to the Classical period, but our head is most likely a Roman copy of a portrait of a Greek philosopher or a man of letters, who could be identified with the philosopher Zeno, born in Kition (Cyprus) and later established in Athens, where he founded the Stoic school. The shape and general appearance of the head, embellished with an imposing beard and thick hair, make this idea tempting. But the extensive restorations to the central part of the face and the absence of two thick vertical wrinkles above the nose (which are a distinctive feature in most of Zeno’s portraits) force us to consider this interpretation with caution. Among the portraits thought to be of Zeno, which according to archeologists would all be based on the same Greek original, now lost (a bronze sculpture that the Athenians dedicated to the philosopher, dated to the early 3rd century B.C.?), the two heads respectively housed in Aixen-Provence and in Fulda are the closest parallels for our example. It was a well established practice for wealthy Romans to possess portraits of the great figures of Greek literature, such as poets, dramatists, historians and philosophers. This required, of



course, owning a library, where such authors were represented. The effigies, often carved in the form of a bust or a herm, were displayed not only in the rooms devoted to reading but also in the promenade areas, porches and gardens. Although Plato and Aristotle each had a place of honor among all these figures, other philosophers and men of letters were frequently represented and enjoyed great popularity. For instance, Zeno, who was considered the spiritual father of the Stoic doctrine, and Chrysippus, his doctrinal successor, were also very popular. The importance of the Stoic doctrine in Rome is highlighted by the fact that two extremely prominent figures, namely Seneca the Younger, the famous philosopher and tutor to Nero, and Marcus Aurelius, the last great emperor of the 2nd century A.D., were proponents of the theories founded by Zeno. CONSERVATION Complete, though face (eyebrows, nose, lips) restored. Surface in good condition, but grainy and unpolished. Minor cracks. PROVENANCE Probably with Antonio and Alessandro Jandolo, Rome; then with Stanford White, New York, 1905; Henry William Poor (1844-1915), of Standard & Poor’s, Tuxedo Park, New York, since 1905. BIBLIOGRAPHY KRUSE H.-J., Ein Beitrag zur Ikonographie des Zenon, in Archäologischer Anzeiger, 1966, pp. 386395. RICHTER G.M.A., The Portraits of the Greeks, Vol. II, London, 1965, pp. 186-189, figs. 1084-1105 (fig. 1099-1100, no. 6, for the portrait in Aix-enProvence). VON HEINTZE H., Die antiken Porträts in Schloss Fasanerie bei Fulda, Mainz/Rhine, 1968, pp. 5-6, no. 4, pl. 5, 101b and 104b. ZANKER P., La maschera di Socrate: L’immagine dell’intellettuale nell’arte antica, Turin, 2007, 1995, pp. 108-113.

� It was a well established practice for Roman aristocracy to possess portraits of the great figures of Greek literature, such as poets, historians and philosophers.�


STATUETTE OF A SMALL REPTILE Near Eastern (proto-Sumerian), late 4th millennium B.C. Black stone L: 5.3 cm is a lizard or a gecko, given its proportions and characteristic snout. The color, the matte surface of the stone and the general morphology also recall those of a salamander, a common amphibian in Europe, but still living now in Anatolia and in the Levant.

This creature was carved from a small black stone. The surface is perfectly polished and presents a matte finish. The underside is flat and without anatomical details. A hole is pierced through the abdomen from side to side, allowing the figurine to be suspended as a pendant or amulet. The creature, with its long, though slightly chubby body, appears to be in a resting or waiting position, with all four legs folded at the sides. The pointed and rather stubby tail has regular crescent-shaped incisions may well represent scales or skin markings. The rounded head features a triangular snout marked by two vertical lines engraved in front of the eyes. Many details of the anatomy are indicated, like the eyes, the circular nostrils (probably made with a snap tool) and the small horizontal mouth. Two engravings separate the head from the body. It is not easy to identify the species represented. It undoubtedly looks like a small reptile (the shape of the snout excludes the hypothesis of a crocodile) and one can therefore imagine that it



In various ancient Near Eastern sanctuaries (cf. Tell Brak and Uruk for the period contemporary with our statuette), images of animals were among the objects most usually offered to the deity; they were genuine statuettes, like this piece, or seals carved in the shape of animals. Since their symbolism and precise meaning cannot always be determined, nor can they always be identified, they are to be considered today as evidence of how important it was for the inhabitants of these regions to feel integrated with the natural environment in which they lived and on which they depended. At the same time, one may appreciate their great variety (mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and insects, as the Mesopotamian bestiary is extraordinarily rich) and their artistic quality; indeed, even with some stylization and naivety, they often awaken the aesthetic sense of the modern viewer. CONSERVATION Complete and in excellent condition, but eyes (probably inlaid) lost. Minor cracks and chips. PROVENANCE Private collection; acquired from Mr. Elie Boustros, Beirut, Lebanon, in 1980. BIBLIOGRAPHY On animals in Mesopotamia, see: ADAMS D.N. et al., When Orpheus Sang: An Ancient Bestiary, Paris, 2004, pp. 19-83. BECKER A. and HEINZ M., Uruk: Kleinfunde I, Stein, Mainz/Rhine, 1993, pp. 89 ff.


PLATE WITH A PRINCE AND FOUR PHOENIXES Islamic (Sultanabad), late 13th – 14th century A.D. Ceramic H : 10.5 cm − D : 23.4 cm This perfectly turned plate is trunconical and terminates in a small vertical rim. It is supported by a disk-shaped base that provides the vessel with good balance. The lip is rounded. The decoration is elaborate, but repetitive. On the outside, the plate is decorated with large gray arches, separated by a white border, recalling the gadroons of the metallic cups produced in ancient times. On the inside, the scene includes a central tondo with a young prince, long-legged and seated, dressed in a tunic with long sleeves. On his head, he wears a turban surrounded by a kind of white aura. He sits in an idyllic natural setting, where the grass is covered with flowers, leaves and pebbles. With his right hand, he makes the gesture of picking a flower. All around the tondo, the frieze is divided into quarters by drop-shaped niches alternating with flying birds, of a type often referred to by scholars as a phoenix. The decoration is painted in elegant and sober shades of similar colors, ranging from gray to cream and black.


This vessel belongs to the Sultanabad group, whose large semicircular type of plate is one of the most attested forms. The name comes from a city in Iran, where a large number of similar vases have been found; currently known as Arak, it is located between Isfahan and Hamadan. The ceramics of Sultanabad were very popular between the late 13th and the 14th century A.D., during the Mongol domination of Iran (reign of the Ilkhanates), but their center of production remains an open question (Kashan workshops?). The patterns painted on these vessels are sometimes quite innovative compared to the styles of contemporary Islamic ceramics. Such diversity can be explained by the influence of the Mongol dynasty, which was thought to have imitated motifs of Chinese tradition, like the phoenix or the lotus flower; these may have been directly inspired by the patterns embroidered on Far Eastern textiles. As shown on the face of the prince represented on this plate, the somatic features of the figures recall the Mongolian type.


” A young prince picks a flower; he sits in an idyllic natural setting, where the grass is covered with flowers, leaves and pebbles.“

Another typical characteristic of ceramics in the Mongol period is the decorative technique, known as underglaze painting. The motifs are painted in black, blue or gray on a white slip and are then covered with a layer of transparent glaze; a somewhat more sophisticated variant provides for the use of a second grayish slip (covering the first white slip), over which patterns are painted in black and white. These patterns are therefore in slight relief and perceptible to touch. CONSERVATION Complete and in excellent condition, but reglued. Minor chips and small repairs. Grayish-beige terracotta, white and gray glaze, black, gray and white paint. PROVENANCE Private collection; Sotheby’s London, April 26, 1996, Lot 42; Japanese private collection. BIBLIOGRAPHY SOUSTIEL J., La céramique islamique, Paris, 1985, pp. 198 ff.; p. 216, nos. 239-241. WATSON O., Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London, 2004, pp. 373 ff., Q.11-Q14. On a similar plate housed in the Louvre, see: http://cartelfr.louvre.fr/cartelfr/visite?srv=car_not_frame&idNotice=34595&langue=fr 50


IDEALIZED PORTRAIT RESEMBLING ALEXANDER Hellenistic Greek, late 4th century B.C. (?) Marble H: 43.2 cm This head is carved from a beautiful block of fine-grained white marble; the surface of the stone, carefully cleaned, retains all its luster and fine modeling. The trunconical form sculpted under the neck clearly indicates that the head belonged to a complete statue. The hair, partly unfinished, was probably covered with a veil or another type of headgear, now lost. The statue represents a beardless young man, with highly idealized features. The slight asymmetry in the treatment of the facial muscles and in the hair suggests that the head was meant to be placed three-quarters to the right, the side where the hair is carefully finished. The execution and nuanced shapes are absolutely remarkable, as evidenced by the delicate and sensuous modeling of the skin on the cheeks or the neck, and by the fine rendering of the eyes area, of the nose and mouth. The long and elegant neck, lightly learning forward, is curved to indicate the bulge of the Adam’s apple.


severe and rounded shapes; Eubuleos, hair is also more abundant and hides a large part of his neck; b) the portraits of a very young Alexander the Great: the head, now in Malibu, that B. Ashmole identified as the Macedonian king, is certainly closer to our example than the more elaborate type, known as Alexander from Erbach (of which three Roman copies exist). In this case too, the obvious external resemblance in the features does not mask some identification issues, mostly linked to the type and treatment of the hair. Failing a firm interpretation, these two comparisons at least enable us to provide clearer guidance on the chronological framework of our example, which would have been carved during the first decades of Hellenism. CONSERVATION Complete, apart from the nose. Chips on the chin, brows, neck and hair. Minor concretions.

The hair that covers the head like a skullcap is irregular and formed by curls in relief, in which incised locks trace volutes.

PROVENANCE Formerly British private collection, London; private collection, Mr & Mrs Beierwaltes, Colorado, USA, acquired in 1992.

This head’s interpretation raises many problems. The facial features recall two very famous types of late 4th century Greek sculpture: a) a head of Eubuleos, from Eleusis: this image is known by an original from the National Museum of Athens, which was nevertheless remodeled in ancient times, and by copies dated to the Roman period (Eubuleos was a young pig-keeper who witnessed Persephone’s abduction by Hades; this explains some phases of the Eleusian ritual during which piglets were sacrificed to him). Despite a physiognomic resemblance, our head displays a thinner, more oval face, and less

BIBLIOGRAPHY On Eubuleos’ head, see: KALTSAS N., Sculpture in the National Archaeological Museum Athens, Athens, 2002, pp. 265-266, nos. 554-556. On portraits of Alexander, see: FITTSCHEN K., Katalog der antiken Skulpturen in Schloss Erbach, Berlin, 1977, pp. 21-25, pl. 8, pl. annexes 2-3. STEWART A., Greek Sculpture, An Exporation, New Haven - London, 1990, pp. 191-192, fig. 576-577 (Malibu). The Search for Alexander, An Exhibition, Washington, 1980, nos. 6 and 13.


� The execution and nuanced shapes are absolutely remarkable, as evidenced by the delicate and sensuous modeling of the skin on the cheeks or the neck.“


Selection of objects Ali Aboutaam and Hicham Aboutaam Project manager Virginie Sélitrenny, Geneva Research Phoenix Ancient Art, Geneva Antiquities Research Center, New York Graphic design mostra-design.com, Geneva Photography Stefan Hagen, New York Atsuyuki Shimada, Osaka

Geneva Ali Aboutaam Michael C. Hedqvist Phoenix Ancient Art S.A. 6, rue Verdaine – P.O. Box 3516 1211 Geneva 3, Switzerland T +41 22 318 80 10 F +41 22 310 03 88 E paa@phoenixancientart.com New York Hicham Aboutaam Alexander Gherardi

Print run 300 French – 150 English

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

ISBN: 978-0-9856289-6-3


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Phoenix Ancient Art - BRAFA Catalogue - 2015 N°3  

Phoenix Ancient Art is pleased to celebrate the 10th-anniversary of its publishing history. With this current catalogue, the third of its 20...

Phoenix Ancient Art - BRAFA Catalogue - 2015 N°3  

Phoenix Ancient Art is pleased to celebrate the 10th-anniversary of its publishing history. With this current catalogue, the third of its 20...