Ancient Sculpture and Works of Art
Online Auction: 28 June–5 July 2024 • 3:00 PM BST • London

Ancient Sculpture and Works of Art 28 June–5 July 2024 • 3:00 PM BST • London

R eturning to the auction calendar this July alongside the live Master Sculpture from Four Millennia auction, Sotheby’s dedicated online sale of Ancient Sculpture & Works of Art will include a diverse selection of objects from the classical world, with a focus on accessible price points for both new and seasoned collectors. This season we are pleased to present antiquities from the collection of Alan and Marianne Schwartz, noted collectors and philanthropists from Detroit, Michigan. Other highlights include a Cycladic Marble Head from the Ralph I. Goldenberg collection, numerous examples of Greek pottery and Roman gold jewelry from an American private collection.

Auction Highlights

Property from the Collection of Alan E. and Marianne Schwartz

Alan and Marianne Schwartz were committed philanthropists, collectors and civic advocates, whose legacy is felt deeply in their hometown of Detroit, Michigan. Their art collecting journey began as a result of Marianne’s study of art history at Wellesley and Barnard, and resulted in one of the most celebrated collections of Western prints in the United States (exhibited at the Detroit Institute of Art in 1990 as Master Prints of Five Centuries: The Alan and Marianne Schwartz Collection). In addition to their prints, the Schwartz’ were enthusiastic collectors of Pre-Columbian art and antiquities in the 1960s. Sotheby’s is pleased to offer these works from the Schwartz collection, a number of which were exhibited in the Detroit Institute exhibition, Detroit Collects: Antiquities in 1973.

Venus at her Vanity

During the Roman period, small bronze devotional sculptures of Aphrodite (or Venus), the goddess of love and beauty, were commonly created for private devotional use and placed in domestic lararia, or house-shrines. These sculptures often showed the goddess at her vanity, holding objects like a mirror or perfume vial, and wearing feminine adornments such as jewelry and hair ornaments. This sale offers such an example of Aphrodite in bronze (157), as well as an assortment of accroutements particular to the goddess at her vanity, such as a gold hair pin (108), a glass vessel that likely held cosmetic unguents (148), and Roman gold necklaces and rings (159, 160, 161).

Fired Earth: Ancient Pottery Vessels Across the Millennia

The present sale features a diverse selection of pottery vessels spanning over three and a half thousand years of antiquity and offering an insight into the manifold ways the ancient peoples of the Mediterranean interacted with the ceramics which furnished their homes, communal spaces and places of burial.

The earliest examples represented here were produced in Egypt, from where a vessel in the form of the Nile-native Tilapia fish (114) as well as two jars painted with abstract motifs referencing Nilotic flora (117) reflect the cultural significance of the life-giving Nile river to the peoples who populated its banks in antiquity.

An Attic pyxis painted in the Geometric style and dating from the 8th Century B.C. (104) is representative of the earliest phases of Athenian pottery, and, in the stateliness of the two modelled horses on its lid, stands in conversation with a fine belly-amphora from two centuries later (105). Compare also the subtlety and compositional harmony exhibited in high quality Athenian black-figured productions of the late 6th and early 5th centuries B.C. (142 and 143), with the more stylised figuration of Greek vessels from outside Attica in the period (137 and 138).

A single pottery vessel from the Roman period is offered in the sale (147), and in its startling green lead glaze illustrates the sharp break from the Greek tradition which is exemplified in the ceramics of the Roman empire.

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