BOULDER, CO – While entire libraries are devoted to cultures of the past, no book, no matter how scholarly, can explain the story of an ancient society quite as well as the objects and art its people left behind. “The tools, weapons, clothing, jewelry, implements and everyday wares of any given culture are, in the truest sense, living history for the generations to follow,” said Teresa Dodge, executive director of the specialist auction house Artemis Gallery.
The company’s Thursday, August 31 auction, which invites absentee, phone and Internet live bidding, is a virtual timeline of the most significant civilizations of the past 4,000 years. As with all of its sales, Artemis Gallery has organized the upcoming auction in a chronological manner, starting with the early pieces from Ancient Egypt.
Lot 4, a circa-1550 to 1070 BCE limestone canopic jar, has a lid that is masterfully styled to replicate the head of a jackal (representing Duamutef, son of Horus), estimate $4,000-$6,000. The almond-shape eyes, pointed ears and well-formed snout reflect a very high standard of artistry. “Canopic jars are among the most iconic of all Egyptian artifacts,” Dodge said. “They were made to hold internal organs removed during the mummification process. The four sons of Horus, including Duamutef, were originally charged with protecting the body of Osiris. After that, they became the traditional protectors of organs, until late in the 1st millennium BCE.”
Other Egyptian highlights include Lot 14A, a tall bronze figure of Osiris, est. $9,000-$12,000; and Lot 16, a circa 662-525 BCE mummy mask, ex Bonhams London, that has been extensively studied and C14 radiocarbon-tested for age, est. $3,000-$4,500.
A widely varied selection of Greek/Etruscan artifacts bears testament to the culture’s emphasis on blending beauty with function. Ladies of Fashion adorn both Lot 51, a large Greek Apulian lekanis (covered vessel on pedestal), $2,400-$3,600; and Lot 50, an elegant kantharos (wine cup) with a pleasing symmetry and sweeping high handles, $1,400-$2,000. Lot 30, a Greek Corinthian lidded pyxis (container for cosmetics, ointment or trinkets) displays images of panthers, goats and harpies, $1,500-$2,000.
The sale moves into the Roman era in classical style with Lot 64, a very fine Imperial Period (1st century CE) bronze of a youth wearing a toga, formerly held in a private Swiss collection. With tightly cropped “hair” and strong musculature, the aesthetically appealing 3.625-inch figure is expected to make $4,500-$5,500. Lot 70, an expertly carved-bone bust of a goddess, circa 1st-2nd century CE, was once part of an old German collection and comes to auction with a $3,000-$4,500 estimate.
Leading the Near Eastern category is Lot 90A, an Anatolian (Early Bronze Age II, circa 2700-2300 BCE) marble abstract figural idol, $4,400-$6,600. “Figures of this type were first found by the British archaeologist Winifred Lamb in the 1930s,” said Teresa Dodge. “Ancient Anatolians have been found buried with items like this one, so it’s quite possible these objects were kept by ordinary people on home altars.”
A stunning Chinese Tang Dynasty (circa 618-907 CE) sancai-glazed tripod vessel or jar would impressive even the most discerning collector with its lion and foo dog maskettes staggered with three dragons, in high and low relief. The three-color sancai glaze renders shades of caramel amber, jade green and creamy white, the perfect backdrop for the addition of deep cerulean blue glaze to the dragon adornments. A similar example, but with a floral motif and minus the cerulean blue accents, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong on Oct. 4, 2016 for US$35,600. Artemis Gallery is auctioning its TL-tested jar, Lot 150D, with a conservative $6,000-$9,000 estimate.
Other fine Asian pieces include Lot 121A, a 19th-century Tibetan gilt bronze and silver divination mirror, $3,000-$4,500; Lot 143D, several early-20th-century Indonesian kris daggers with diamonds and sapphires; Lot 149, a signed 19th-century bronze articulated lobster, $2,000-$3,000; and Lot 150C, an impressive TL-tested Chinese Tang Dynasty pottery Bactrian camel, $2,500-$3,500.
Pre-Columbian art is next, with several exceptional pieces of jewelry and pottery among the highlights. There are three lots of nose rings, including Lot 193A, which consists of two high-karat Moche (Peru, circa 100-700 CE), hand-hammered and decorated crescent-shape designs. Estimate: $800-$1,200. Several jade pieces will be available, as well. Lot 215 is a very large, circa 650-900 CE Mayan pendant extensively carved from a single piece of seafoam green jade. With complex iconography on its angled faces, the pendant’s “plumage” suggests the appearance of Kukulkan (known as Quetzalcoatl to the Aztecs). Estimate: $4,000-$6,000
African, tribal and ethnographic art in the sale encompasses many cultures, including the Ashanti people of Ghana, to whom Lot 247 is directly attributed. The carved and gilded wood staff features a standing human figure, with necklaces and upswept hair, observing an elephant with a snake wrapped around its midsection. Staffs of this type were made to signify okyeame, or high-ranking members of the Asante court. A similar example is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Estimate: $3,000-$4,500.
Spanish Colonial art is always an anticipated inclusion in Artemis Gallery auctions. Among the top pieces this time are paintings, santos and silver. Lot 257A, a Spanish Colonial school Baroque oil painting from the late-17th or early 18th century, is a finely rendered depiction of Tobais and the Archangel Raphael. With provenance from a private San Francisco collection, it will cross the auction block with a $4,000-$6,000 estimate.
The auction will conclude with Russian icons and art, including Lot 274A, a solid silver processional crucifix, $2,000-$3,000; and Lot 276, a 56-inch-long silver Orthodox cross and chain weighing 190g, $1,500-$2,000. Lot 267, an early 19th-century CE festal icon depicting the Resurrection and “feast of feasts,” comes with provenance from the renowned Francis & Lilly Robicsek collection and is estimated at $6,500-$9,750. Immediately following at Lot 268 is a circa-19th-century CE icon depicting King Herod and his daughter Salome at the beheading of John the Baptist. Estimate $2,800-$4,200
There are many ways in which to bid in the Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017 auction, including absentee, by phone (please reserve line in advance), or live via the Internet. The sale begins at 10 a.m. Eastern Time and will be conducted simultaneously on three bidding platforms: ArtemisGallery.com, LiveAuctioneers.com, and Invaluable.com. For additional information about any item in the auction, call Teresa Dodge at 720-502-5289 or email email@example.com. Online: www.artemisgallery.com.
Caption: Chinese Tang Dynasty sancai-glazed jar, circa 618-907 CE, lion and foo dog maskettes, and cerulean-blue glazed dragons in alternating high and low relief, est. $6,000-$9,000. Image courtesy of Artemis Gallery