The high point of interest in this spring’s antiquities sales was the Groppi Collection – a single-owner sale at Christie’s South Kensington of ancient Egyptian artefacts.
Rare mosaic glass dating from the
Ptolemaic period (330-30BC), amulets, scarabs and bronze statues
attracted both private and trade buyers as well as various
Formed in the early part of the 20th
century by Achille Groppi (1890-1949), the owner of Groppi, the
famous café, tearoom and patisserie in Cairo, the 107-lot
collection was 97% sold by volume and 99% by value, totalling over
Part of Groppi's ancient Egyptian
collection had been offered over two decades ago under the banner
of the anonymous 'Per-Neb' collection, when Christie's dispersed
some 500 lots split into three sales in 1992 and 1993.
Christie's specialist Georgie Aitken said
the decision to name the collection was partially the result of a
re-branding exercise, but also because Laetitia Delaloye, the
great-great-granddaughter of Jacques Groppi, now works as a
colleague of Ms Aitken in the antiquities department.
Much of the material offered on April 26
was new to the market, although a handful of unsold lots from the
previous sales resurfaced here. Around three-quarters of the sale
consisted of glass inlays - the vibrant pieces having infatuated
Achille and dominated much of his collection.
Topping the price list was a pair of
turquoise glass profile head inlays of the Pharaoh Akhenaten with,
most probably, his famous Egyptian wife Nefertiti. Offered
separately, they both measured just over 1in (2.5cm) high and dated
from c.1353-36 BC.
Akhenaten went under the hammer first, and
against an estimate of £80,000-120,000 sold to a private buyer for
£170,000. The other head sold for £230,000, almost double the same
top estimate, to a different private buyer, the link with Nefertiti
and the face's refined features proving more sought-after.
A mosaic glass falcon head inlay of the
god Horus from the Ptolemaic period c.2nd-1st century BC fetched
£70,000 against a £20,000-30,000 estimate. This can be compared to
a very similar example offered in Part II of the Per Neb Collection
in 1993 that fetched a far more modest £19,000 against a
A Groppi family favourite was the Egyptian
wood and bronze Ibis from the c.6th century BC. Estimated at
£80,000-120,000, the 20 x 11¼in (51 x 28.5cm) carving fetched its
low £80,000 estimate.
Above: the wood and bronze Ibis that
Even pieces unappealing to buyers from the
earlier sales fetched high sums here despite considerably punchier
The first was an Egyptian bronze of the
god of war and death, Wepwawet in the form of a jackal from the 7th
or 6th century BC. Measuring 6¼ x 5¾in (16 x 14.5cm), it almost
doubled the top estimate, selling at £95,000 to the European
The second example, known as the Groppi
Baboon, represented the moon-god Khonsu, measured 3¾in (9.5cm) and
was dated to c.1291-1191BC. It fetched a mid-estimate £80,000.
The third piece, a 4in (10cm) bronze cat
head of the goddess Bastet from the 6th-4th century BC, took
£30,000 - double the top estimate.
The buyer's premium was 25/20/12%