Roman Marble Relief Highlights Christie’s Antiquities Auction

Christie’s New York sale of Antiquities on June 10, will offer over 150 lots with a stunning selection of Roman marbles, Greek helmets and vases, and Egyptian art.

The highlight of the sale is a rare Roman marble relief from the Julio-Claudian period, circa early 1st century A.D., that depicts the Emperor Tiberius standing before a seated Genius with the goddess Concordia between them as intermediary. This outstanding Imperial commission, perhaps from an altar or other civic monument, is superbly sculpted in high relief. Carved with great technical precision the relief combines depth and perspective within the limited thickness of the marble slab. The sculptor of the relief was an artist of importance and considerable skill, one well acquainted with Classical and Hellenistic styles of drapery.

Another notable work is a Roman bronze lamp stand, circa late 1st century B.C. (estimate: $800,000-1,200,000). On the base of the lamp stand is a figure of a youth, possibly depicting Alexander Helios, son of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra VII, in the guise of an Armenian prince with his high pyramidal headdress and eastern attire. This piece compares to the famous bronze youths, one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and one at the Walters Art Museum.

The sale also presents a fine Egyptian Diorite Head of an Official, Late Period, Dynasty XXX, 380-343 B.C. (estimate: $500,000-700,000). This is a skillfully sculpted and superbly polished idealizing head, part of a tradition that sought to imbue the individual with eternal youth and vigor. The important official represented would only be identifiable by the accompanying inscription, here lost. While a number of these portrait heads are preserved in museum collections in the U.S. and Europe, this example is rare to the market for its quality and condition.

An Egyptian sandstone relief depicting the Pharaoh Ramesses II is also featured in the sale, dated to his reign, 1290-1224 B.C. (estimate: $100,000-150,000). Here Ramesses is portrayed offering a bolt of cloth to a deity. It is likely from a column drum. The Pharaoh is wearing a tunic and a short ibes wig with echeloned curls hanging over his ears. Only the right arm and was-scepter of the god before him remains. Two of Ramesses’ five names in cartouches are visible above, and red pigment for Ramesses’ flesh is well preserved.

Additional highlights include an incredible Roman marble relief panel from the Antonine Period, circa 160 A.D. (estimate: $400,000-600,000), depicting a centauromachy with a panorama of a battle scene of nude Greek warriors and centaurs, bearded half-equine beasts; a Greek bronze helmet of Cretan type, circa 650-620 B.C. (estimate: $350,000-550,000), distinguished by the high crest and carefully-incised mythological scenes; and an elegant Attic red-figured neck amphora, circa 490-480 B.C. (estimate: $200,000-300,000), attributed to the Berlin Painter.

Image: Roman Marble Relief of the Emperor Tiberius Julio-Claudian Period, circa early 1st century A.D. Photo: Christie’s Images Ltd 2010