Christie’s to auction a set of two Roman bronze genre statues

Christie’s is to auction a set of two important Roman bronze genre statues on December 5, circa late 1st century B.C.- early 1st century A.D. (estimate: $3,000,000-5,000,000). Both approximately twenty inches in length, the sculptures each depict a young girl pursuing a partridge. The toddlers are positioned similarly, sitting on the base, leaning forward with open arms and splayed fingers, stretching toward a bird that is just out of reach. The features are exquisitely detailed, with the eyes inlaid with white stone, one preserving further metal inlays. The lashes are of trimmed sheet bronze and their hair is delicately curled and formed in to a loose top-knot. The partridges are equally impressive, with the plumage naturalistically represented as they turn their head back to glance at their pursuer. The bronzes come to Christie’s from a private collection, the owner’s family having acquired them from renowned Swiss collector Giovanni Züst in the 1960s, whose collection formed the nucleus of Basel’s famed Antikensammlung.

The Roman taste for statues in bronze or marble for their villas took many forms, including depictions of the gods, mythological characters, and scenes from the theater. One popular genre, which traces its origins back to 5th century B.C. Greece, featured a young child engaged in various activities, often playing with a bird or pet. While these scenes originally had religious meanings, the Romans frequently adapted them for purely decorative function. These spectacular bronzes offer a rare glimpse into the opulence of the Roman private sphere and vividly illustrate the pinnacle of bronze casting technology during the early Imperial period.

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