Egyptian artefacts are one of the bullish sectors in the antiquities market and this has been reflected in sale results on both sides of the Channel last month.
In London, Christie's obtained a
blockbuster £3.25m for a stone statue, but meanwhile, in Paris,
two firms have offered single-owner Egyptian collections at Drouot:
Art's (20/12% buyer's premium) 159-lot sale of the Maurice
Mathieu collection on October 10 and Thierry de
Maigret's (20% buyer's premium) sale of the 220-lot Charles
Bouché collection on October 24.
And there is more to follow this month as
et Associés offer a library of Egyptology on November 29 and a
mixed-owner sale the next day that features several Egyptian
artefacts among its highlights.
The Bouché collection sale was an event
with a stand-out item: a brilliant blue faience royal shabti from
the tomb of Sethi Ist (1294-1279BC) which was pursued to €740,000
(£616,670), way past the predictions of €150,000-200,000 and
anything else in the sale.
The late Charles Bouché, who died in 2010,
had spent 60 years collecting Egyptian antiquities, focusing on the
small funerary statuettes and other ritual elements that were
buried with the dead to ease their way in the afterlife.
As a result, there were over 140 shabtis
included in this sale but this one was special in terms of both
provenance and scarcity. It could be traced back to the excavation
of the Pharaoh's tomb by Belzoni in 1817, having belonged to
Somerset Lowry Corry, who financed the excavations before it was
offered by his descendant at Sotheby's in 1972.
It also bore a seven-line inscription to
the lower section naming the Pharaoh. It is one of seven similar
royal shabtis from this location but all the others are in
institutions, so this was an opportunity to be seized. As always
this is a key ingredient when it comes to desirability, hence the
multi-estimate result despite the fact that the base bearing two
lines of inscription was missing.
The other shabtis in the Bouché sale
carried much lower estimates, ranging from around €50,000 down to
just a few hundred.
Around three-quarters of these got away
with prices falling much more in line with expectations. Other
unusual examples included a rare triple-layer miniature model of a
sarchophagus comprising a 6¼in (16cm) long rectangular wood outer
case opening to reveal an anthropomorphic stuccoed wood sarcophagus
inscribed with the name Rentimentep, which in turn opens to reveal
a 5in (12.5cm) long alabaster shabti inset with panels of red
jasper and green stone and a central inscription. This sold for
just below estimate at €45,000 (£37,500).
A particularly well-preserved and finely
detailed green faience shabti from Saqqarah, 380-342BC, was pursued
above expectations to €36,000 (£30,000). This bore an inscription
for Tchahorpata, the son of Tefnout, an influential courtier during
the reign of Nectanebo II, and was another well-provenanced item,
having been in a string of private collections dating back to
pre-1912 when it was sold at Drouot as part of the Max de Zogheb
collection from Alexandria.
The collection also featured smaller
groups of heart scarabs, amulets and bronze votive statuettes.
These last proved to be the most difficult section of the auction
with around half the examples failing to get away, including
several for which the auctioneers had hopes of five-figure
One bronze bucked this trend, though. This
was an 4¼in (11cm) high fragmentary bust portrait of a pharaoh
bearing an inscription naming Osorkon II, who ruled from 870-850BC.
While this piece lacked the arms, the features were finely worked
and the piece again had a provenance back to pre-1914 when it was
in the Gayer Anderson collection. Last month at Drouot it fetched a
triple-estimate €70,000 (£58,335).
Like Charles Bouché, Maurice Mathieu was
fascinated by these funerary servants and other elements that were
found in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, although shabtis were less
dominant in his holdings, which also featured canopic jars,
decorative amulets, ancient glass vessels, statuettes and wall
Nonetheless, it was the 14-lot shabti
section that provided the highest prices in the Auction Art sale of
the Mathieu collection two weeks earlier
The collection featured two 19th dynasty
limestone shabti figures each inscribed with lines from chapter 6
of the Book of the Dead. Both had a 1999 provenance to the Parisian
Galerie Orient-Occident of Jean Loup Despras and were guided at
The first, a servant figure of Mes, 8in
(22cm) high but minus the feet, was pursued to €65,000 (£54,170)
but the second, a servant figure of Yhou complete and slightly
taller at 9½in (24cm) high, was pursued that much higher to €90,000
(£75,000) - the top price of the day.
Another Despras-provenanced piece from
back in 1969 was a late Kingdom 19 x 22in (48 x 55cm) polychromed
limestone relief fragment, showing a queue of servants bringing
various foodstuffs to the deceased to sustain him in the afterlife,
which sold for €49,000 (£40,835).
Overall, the auctioneers found buyers for
139, or 87%, of the content, the bulk in the low thousands or
hundreds of euros.
£1 = €1.20