Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Christies antiquities sales

My last post focused on the Sotheby's sale, largely because of the Guennol Goddess, and to be fair, here I will feature a few highlights of the Christies sale. No single object captures the imagination in their sale, at least from the catalogue online or the print one. Not having previewed the sale in person, I could change my mind.

Christies has chosen to do separate Ancient Jewelry sales, largely because of their expert, Max Bernheimer's personal interest in that area. This sale features some very interesting pieces, two of which stood out. Below is the most arresting gem:

Roman Carnelian Ring Stone, ca. First Century B.C.
Estimate $1,000. to $1,500.
Only the Romans would create such a pornographic image, which of course to them, had a very serious religious meaning. To us today, it is fantastically shocking and tittilating, really right out of a porno flick. What betrays the seriousness of its intent however is the very demure head of lady wearing her hair up in a melon coiffure. She looks totally calm and sedate while the rampaging hard cocks point towards the vagina. I love the Greeks and Romans, they celebrated life as a human and did not fight nature. I can only imagine that aside from its salacious effect this ring stone represented some aspect of fertility.

One of the stars of the jewelry sale is the ring below:

Late Roman gold and nicolo Key-ring.
late 3rd to early 4th Century A.D.
This unusual ring takes a form I have not seen before. The stone is engraved with a Victory holding wreath, a fairly common motif in gems, however the ring is wide, flat and pierced to create an elaborate inscription, here naming the name of a wife and her husband. On one side of the ringstone there is an extension again pierced to create "peltae amidst tendrils" according to Christies. A peltae is a small shield of crescent shape, in case you didn't know. (I didn't, I had to look it up.) Very unusual ring, and for all that, not really that expensive, the estimate is a relatively modest $15,000. to $20,000.

In the main antiquities sale a silver piece stands out, as it is the highest estimate in the sale. At least that I noticed. Below is a picture:

Roman Silver skyphos, two views.
Ca. late First Century B.C. to A.D.
4 3/8 inches high,

Unfortunately the images available on Christies website do not allow one to understand why this cup has such a high estimate. Silver cups with relief decoration such as this are very rare and important almost by definition, however I cannot tell what the quality of work is, or the detail. The description is quite detailed which may mean that the work on the cup is of high quality, I wish they had provide better images to see it. I look forward to seeing it in person.

One should go to the Christies website, there are a number of other objects of interest but these stood out for me.

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