Category Archive 'Antiquities'
30 Mar 2021

Nice Object

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I receive a lot of email notices of auction sales. This morning an email circular from Christie’s had this fragment of a leopard serving as the illustration at the top. I liked it enough that I decided to look, unlikely as the chance would be, just in case it might be selling for only a few hundred dollars. I thought Karen would enjoy owning it as a decorative bibelot.

Clicking on the image, though, only took me to a sanctimonious pledge about carbon neutral auctioneering. Pah!

So I decided to capture the image and give it a search.

And I found it, as you see below.

I must admit: I have expensive tastes.

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Via Alain R. Truong:

Lot 33. A Mesopotamian inlaid limestone leopard, Late Uruk – Jemdet Nasr period, circa 3300-2900 B.C.; 2 ¼ in. (5.8 cm.) high. Estimate GBP 150,000 – GBP 250,000. Price realised GBP 212,500.

Provenance: Private collection, New York, 1960s.
with Mathias Komor, New York.
Leo Mildenberg (1913-2001) collection, Zurich, acquired from the above in the mid-1970s.
A Peaceable Kingdom: The Leo Mildenberg Collection of Ancient Animals; Christie’s, London, 26-27 October 2004, lot 153.

Exhibited: The Cleveland Museum of Art, Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, 21 October-29 November 1981.
Munich, Prähistorische Staatssammlung; Mannheim, Reiss-Museum; Jerusalem, Bible Lands Museum; Bonn, Akademisches Kunstmuseum; Stendal, Winckelmann-Museum, Out of Noah’s Ark: Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, 11 October 1996-28 June 1999.

Published: A. P. Kozloff, ed., Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Cleveland, 1981, no. 2.
P. E. Mottahedeh (ed.), Out of Noah’s Ark, Animals in Ancient Art from the Leo Mildenberg Collection, Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem, 1997, no. 91.

Note: This Sumerian leopard with a ‘beauty spot’ (the remains of an ‘Egyptian blue’ inlay) on his cheek was affectionately named “Omar” by Mildenberg after the film star, Omar Sharif.
Only the upper section of the leopard is preserved, finely carved in the round in the heraldic rampant pose. While the body is shown in profile, the head is turned towards the viewer, snarling.
The mottling of the fur is rendered with a series of drilled holes, once inlaid with Egyptian blue (of which only one survives). The use of this typically Egyptian pigment is documented in Egypt from the Predynastic period, while contemporaneous similar-looking blue stones in Mesopotamia have been traditionally described as lapis lazuli. This single surviving inlay then represents one of the earliest appearances of Egyptian blue in the region.
According to Kozloff, the animal represented might be the Arabian leopard, now critically endangered and once found throughout the Arabian peninsula and the Sinai.
The use of coloured inlays to add detail to sculptures is well documented in Sumerian art. For a finely carved limestone bull showing drilled holes for now-lost inlays and also dated to the Jemdet Nasr Period, cf. Sumer. Assur. Babylone. Catalogue of the exhibition at the Musée du Petit Palais, 24 March – 14 June 1981, Paris, 1980, p. 38, no. 41.

Christie’s. Antiquities, London, 3 July 2019

03 Mar 2021

Black-Figure Dinos (Mixing Vessel): Warships (Int.); Heroic Scenes (Top) c. 520-515 BC

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Dinos, Antimenes Painter, c. 520-515 BC, Cleveland Museum of Art: Greek and Roman Art

A wealthy, educated man would have served wine from such a vessel at an all-male party (symposium) in his home. In addition to drinking, the men would recite poetry and argue politics or philosophy. A favorite poet was Homer, who lived about 850 BC, and is credited with having written the Iliad, the epic poem of the Trojan War, and the Odyssey, the book of Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek) travels after the war. When the dinos was filled to the rim, the ships painted on the inside appeared to float on the “wine-dark sea,” one of Homer’s most famous poetic descriptions. The decorations on the rim of this vessel include battle scenes, perhaps from the Trojan War, and scenes from mythology. Look at the rim as if it were a clock’s face. In addition to the nine scenes of warrior combat, at 4:00 there is a scene of Herakles Fighting a Centaur; at 6:00, Theseus Slaying the Cretan Minotaur; and at 10:00, Herakles Wrestling the Nemean Lion. On the interior rim five warships with boar-head prows sail over a wavy sea.
Size: Diameter: 50.8 cm (20 in.); Overall: 33.6 cm (13 ¼ in.); Diameter of rim: 34 cm (13 3/8 in.)
Medium: black-figure terracotta

https://clevelandart.org/art/1971.46

05 Oct 2020

Etruscan Sarcophagus of the Spouses

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https://ratak-monodosico.tumblr.com/post/631101360732028928

Wikipedia:

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses (Italian: Sarcofago degli Sposi) is considered one of the great masterpieces of Etruscan art. It is a late sixth-century BC Etruscan anthropoid sarcophagus from Caere, and is in the National Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia, Rome. It is 1.14 m high by 1.9 m wide, and is made of terracotta which was once brightly painted. It depicts a married couple reclining at a banquet together in the afterlife, and was found in 19th-century excavations at the necropolis of Cerveteri (ancient Caere). The portrayal of a married couple sharing a banqueting couch is distinctly an Etruscan style; in contrast, Greek vases depicting banquet scenes reflect the custom that only men attended dinner parties.

These are the people your typical New Yorker subscribers imagine themselves to be.

Just looking at them, you regret missing the food, wine, and conversations at their weekend parties.

27 Sep 2020

Kylix Painting Attributed to Makron

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Attic red-figured kylix painting attributed to Makron and signed by Hieron as potter.

Christie’s SALE 18865

Antiquities
New York|13 October 2020

LOT42 –SOLD TO BENEFIT THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART
AN ATTIC RED-FIGURED KYLIX
ATTRIBUTED TO MAKRON AS PAINTER, SIGNED BY HIERON AS POTTER, CIRCA 490-480 B.C.
Estimate
USD 1,200,000 – USD 1,800,000

Christie’s Magazine speculates that this one may set a new record price for a Greek vase.

This Attic red-figured kylix — attributed to the painter Makron and of ‘outstanding provenance’ — could be about to eclipse a landmark figure set 20 years ago, says Harry Seymour

The year 490 BC was a memorable one for the people of Athens: 10,000 of the city’s soldiers crushed the much larger Persian army of Darius the Great; work commenced on the first Temple of Athena Parthenos on the Acropolis; and the modern marathon was born when a messenger with good news supposedly ran 26 miles to the city before dropping dead.

It is also thought to be the year in which an artist known as Makron began his decade-long career painting ceramics in the Kerameikos — the potters’ quarter — in Athens.

‘He soon established himself as one of the best painters of his generation,’ says G. Max Bernheimer, international head of Antiquities at Christie’s. ‘And this Attic red-figured wine cup — offered on 13 October at Christie’s in New York — is the best example by the fabled artist to come to auction in decades.’

Makron worked in a relatively new style known as ‘red-figure’, which involved creating shapes from negative space against a painted background. Details were then added with a brush and slip. This technique replaced the predominant ‘black-figure’ style, which required detail to be incised into painted figures, and made portraying pictorial depth tricky.

Makron’s name survives today thanks to a single signed work, a skyphos now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which features the words ‘Makron drew me’ painted on one handle.

The underside of one of the cup’s handles was inscribed by the potter with the words, ‘Hieron made me’

In the 20th century, however, a further 350 ceramics (including this one) were attributed to Makron by the Oxford University professor Sir John Beazley (1885-1970). Beazley catalogued thousands of Greek vases by studying each painter’s style in minute detail. In the case of Makron, his characters feature distinctive round heads with flat tops and drapery folds drawn with great finesse.

Today, nearly all of Makron’s vases are housed in major institutions, including the Met, the Louvre, the British Museum and the Getty. According to Bernheimer, ‘Hardly any are left in private hands, which makes this one all the more desirable to collectors.’

RTWT

28 Apr 2020

Superb Roman Ring

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click on image for larger version.

Roman ring, with portrait of Cæsonia Milonia (died 24 January 41), the fourth and last wife of Roman emperor Caligula and a former priestess of the Egyptian goddess Isis. Caesonia had a bad reputation, as she was promiscuous, extravagant, deep in debt, and a divorcee, but Caligula decided to marry her so that she could produce him an heir. She was murdered along with Caligula and their three daughters in 41.

Cut sapphire (and intaglio representing the profile of the empress) and hollowed out and set in gold, early 1st century.

(Former collection of the Dukes of Marlborough, this exceptional ring was sold in October 2019 in London by London jeweler Wartski to an unknown buyer (estimated transaction £ 500,000 / € 570,000 — $ 622,145 / $ 709,245.30).

03 Dec 2018

Found Object

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Atlas Obscura:

During the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago, in what is now Afghanistan, an artisan from the Indus Valley (or Harappan) civilization made a ceramic pot. The four-inch-tall vessel was distinguished by a doe-eyed antelope painted across its flank. We’ll never know who used it, or for what—at least before 2013.
That’s when Karl Martin, a valuer at Hansons Auctioneers in Derbyshire, England, purchased the pot at a car boot sale, a kind of English flea market. And why not? He got it and another pot for a total of £4—or, £1 for every thousand years since it had been made.
Of course Martin didn’t know at the time that he was buying an authentic artifact from one of the cradles of civilization. All he knew, he said in a Hansons release, was that he “liked it straight away,” so he gave it a place of honor in his household where he would see it every day. It was in the bathroom, where it held his toothbrush and toothpaste. There it sat for years.

And there it would have stayed, if not for the fact that Martin often encounters antiquities in his line of work. One day, he was helping a Hansons colleague unload some items headed for the block when he spotted some familiar-looking pottery, coated with patterns and animals like those on his toothbrush-holder. He brought his holder to the colleague, James-Seymour Brenchley, Hansons’ Head of Ancient Art, Antiquities & Classical Coins. Brenchley was able to link the pot’s painting style to that of other Indus Valley artifacts. He speculates that the pot had arrived in the United Kingdom via British tourists. Martin decided to put it up for auction at Hansons, where it sold this week for £80—“not a fortune,” Martin admits, but still a 1,900 percent profit, not adjusting for inflation.

RTWT

For £80 minus seller’s fee, I’d have kept it for my toothbrush.

09 Apr 2018

Bronze Italic Cuirass

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Italic Bronze Anatomical Cuirass
Culture : Greek-Western-Greek, Italic
Period : 4th century B.C.
Material : Bronze
Dimensions : H: 35.8 cm

Provenance : Ex-Professor A. Goumaz Collection, Switzerland, 1960’s.

Conditions : Anatomical cuirass featuring two cast bronze plates hammered for better protection against knocks and blows. Repairs on both elements; lateral closure system (hinges, hooks) now lost. Reddish brown colored metal largely covered with a dark green patina and encrustations.

08 Apr 2018

Who Made These Ancient Sculptures of Horsemen Near the Pir Panjal Range?

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Scroll.in:

The Pir Panjal is a sub-range of the Great Himalayan mountain system that stretches from Murree in Pakistan to the Rohtang Pass in Himachal Pradesh. Across the Pir Panjal were ancient trade routes connected by passes locally known as Galis. Strewn along these old trade routes through the passes, between the Kashmir Valley and Jammu, you will come across mysterious and spectacular sculptures of soldiers on horseback. Mostly unknown outside the region, these ancient sentinels are only known to trekkers and locals who make their way through here.

The Horsemen of the Pir Panjal are found mostly at the foot of the Galis or on the main Gali itself and they usually have a natural water spring and accompanying pond nearby. There is no doubt that these sculptures mark important strategic points on ancient routes that connected various villages in the Pir Panjal. These were probably markers to identify milestones or resting places for weary horses and men. However, little is known about who built them and when.

The sculptures are mostly of horsemen along with some other reliefs of what seem to be local Gods and Devtas. This has led to a fair bit of speculation. Locals believe that the horsemen were put here by the Pandavas from the Hindu epic Mahabharata when they visited the place millennia back. Others point to the attire of the horsemen and the unique geometric shapes, as motifs, to say that these horsemen may have Bactrian origins.

RTWT

25 Mar 2018

Hingsgavldolken Blade

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Flint knife known as the Hingsgavldolken blade, circa 2400-1800 BC. On display at the Danish National Museum.

02 Mar 2018

Regulated Antiquities Will Often Lack Good Provenance

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A papyrus fragment containing text from St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians offered for sale on eBay in 2012. Oh me, oh my!

Roberta Mazza proves that you can have a graduate degree and specialized academic expertise and still be a total imbecile with respect to markets, governments, and reality.

We academics must help protect the objects we study. Some of my colleagues believe that scholarship comes first, or say that texts have no guilt, so we should be faithful to them. They publish what emerges from the market. I disagree. To publish papyri with suspicious — if not illegal — provenance is unethical. It lends a new identity to those artefacts and feeds the illicit market.

Looting and illicit excavations in Egypt not only destroy the archaeological landscape forever, but also have also caused deaths and injuries to Egyptians, including children, employed to dig in narrow shafts. In 2016, two archaeological guards, Ashrawy and Mustafa Ali, were shot dead by looters in action. And there is good reason to believe that many crimes go unreported in the current political and economic climate. (That said, in the UK, academics who facilitate exchanges of improperly-obtained antiquities can be charged for money laundering.)

So what should we do with all of these suspiciously-sourced fragments? They should be immediately returned to the legitimate owner: Egypt. (Egyptian authorities may eventually reach a deal with the collectors for study and publication before repatriation.) Those who study papyri must exercise due diligence before publishing anything, and academics should exercise an active role in educating collectors and keeping an eye on the market. Would you knowingly buy a stolen bike? Why would you buy — or publish — a stolen manuscripts?

RTWT

Ms. Mazza, firstly, suffers from the self-entitlement and inclination-to-control-the-universe syndrome which characteristically afflicts credentialed members of the academical elite. That naturally combines with uncritical left-wing statism, producing a pathological hostility to free markets and the voluntary and organic interactions of ordinary mortal human beings who lack badges, official positions, and doctorates, along with an uncritical bias in favor of the State, even when the State consists of a corrupt Third World kleptocracy and dictatorship.

The rational reader learns from Dr. Mazza’s article that this small papyrus fragment was offered for sale on Ebay by a source one might not want to invite home to meet the parents, but in the end a little way down the road, what do you know! was evidently purchased by some capitalistic plutocrat and donated to a museum, where it is obviously being carefully preserved and kept available for study and research.

Her problem, of course, is the absence of a good provenance. But Dr. Mazza expects everything her own way, and refuses to reflect on causes and effects and the nature of reality. Why is there no provenance? Obviously a provenance is lacking, because this papyrus fragment could not be bought and sold openly. It had to travel from valueless, totally inaccessible, probably dangerous occult obscurity to its resting place in a prominent collection via the black market.

Why the black market? Obviously because greedy, pompous, grasping primitive governments like that of Egypt despotically claim total ownership of all antique, archaeological, and historically valuable material found, discovered, unearthed, or passed along in some chain of private or corporate possession in their territory. Better that artifact lie buried in the ground than that some Egyptian peasant carry on the millenia-old antiquities hunting trade, find it, profit privately, and let the item go to some institutional collection in a civilized Western country. No, no, no, that would be a theft from, and an affront to, the People’s Collectivist State.

Obviously, if in a different world, a world in which academicians looked objectively at economic reality, Human Nature, and the legitimacy, ethical qualities, and level of sophistication and culture of different governments and societies, those academics would do the really ethical thing and dismiss out of hand the insolent claims of ephemeral contemporary brigandish regimes to the inherited legacy of mankind generally, and they would insist that private initiative and market forces be permitted to operate freely, recognizing the former as by far the most efficient, effective, and reliable mechanisms, those being actually in accord with individual self interest, for the recovery and preservation of antiquities of every kind.

In a free market situation, instead of being covertly offered on Ebay, a valuable papyrus fragment would have been advertised widely with every bit of documentation and provenance possible in order to maximize the object’s value and to bring it to the attention of every possible interested individual and institutional collector. The missing provenance isn’t the fault of market processes. It is the fault of over-reaching, oppressive Statism.

26 Nov 2016

Roman Shoe Hoard Found in Northumberland

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romanshoes

Ancient Origins:

A team of archeologists has discovered more than 400 ancient Roman shoes in the Vindolanda fort in Northumberland, England, including some that resemble modern-day shoe styles. The site, located just south of Hadrian’s Wall, was an ancient settlement for Roman soldiers and their families.

During the excavation work, which lasted the whole summer, the researchers were uncovering one shoe after another. It was a huge challenge, but every single piece is priceless. According to the researchers, every single shoe is like a time machine, and a window into the everyday life of the person who once wore it.

Some of the shoes even resemble today’s fashions. For example, Chronicle Live reports that one shoe that was unearthed is strikingly similar to the Adidas Predator football boot. Although Romans didn’t play football, the shoes offered them similar comfort and flexibility to the famous Predator model.

The shoes belonged to the different generations, ranging from tiny baby boots to small children’s shoes, adult female and men boots and bath clogs. The owners of the shoes lived inside the fort at Vindolanda. It was built c. 1,800 years ago by the Roman army. It was small but one of the most heavily defended forts in Britain.

Complete story.

15 Aug 2016

The Portonaccio Sarcophagus

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PortonaccioSarcophagus1
Portonaccio Sarcophagus, 2nd Century A.D., Museo Nazionale Romano

Kuriositas profiles an exceptionally spectacular ancient sculpture featuring particularly realistic and fine battle scenes:

It was discovered in 1931 near Via Tiburtina, in the eastern suburbs of Rome. Its front depicts a symbolic picture of a battle which is on two levels. The carving remains to this day an incredible achievement – the dark and light contrast beautifully to produce a veritable chiaroscuro effect. This skill involved was superlative.

The sarcophagus was probably used in the burial of a Roman general who was closely involved in the campaigns of Marcus Aurelius. He is seen on the front of the sarcophagus, frozen forever in a charge against his enemies. Yet the face of the high ranking officer for which the sarcophagus was intended is left blank.

It is thought that it was left blank with the intention of the sculptor creating a death mask of the general in that position. Yet perplexingly it has been left unfinished and we can only guess at the reasons for that. We will never know if some form of shame descended on the general before his death or why it was his family or friends decided that he was to be left nameless and faceless for eternity.

Certainly it was not for expediency or money. This sarcophagus would have been incredibly expensive to create and would probably have taken over a year to create. Plus the rest of it (and thus his reputation) was left intact. You can see his troops laying in to their barbarian enemies with gusto. Some are already on the ground, others apparently beg for his mercy. …

The military insignia which can be seen on the upper edge of the casket allows us to try to figure out the identity of the man. It shows the eagle of the Legio IIII Flavia and the boar of the Legio I Italicai. Historians who have studied the casket have pointed towards Aulus Iulius Pompilius. He was an official of Marcus Aurelius who was in control of two squadrons of cavalry which were on detachment to both legions for the duration of the war against the Marcomanni (172-175AD).

PortonaccioSarcophagus2
Portonaccio Sarcophagus, 2nd Century A.D., Museo Nazionale Romano

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