Previously on loan at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, it has an ‘estimate on request’ but it is expected to realise in excess of $3m.
The female idol which dates from the Chalcolithic Period (c.3000-2200 BC) has provenance to the ‘Guennol collection’ formed by Edith and Alastair Bradley Martin – the source of the famed 5000-year-old stone carving of a standing lioness that fetched an extraordinary $51m (£25.9m) at Sotheby’s New York December in 2007, a record for any ancient work of art.
This figure was acquired by the Martins before 1966 but was passed by descent before it was acquired by the current vendor, a US private collector, in August 1993 from the Merrin Gallery in New York.
Billed as “one of the finest and largest preserved of a female idols of Kiliya type”, it measures 9in (23cm) high and has been given the colloquial title of ‘Stargazer’ due to the large head being slightly tilted back to give the impression of an upward stare.
Only around 15 such idols survive in near-complete form (although fragments are more numerous) as most examples were broken across the neck, including the present figure, suggesting that the sculptures were ritually “killed” at the time of burial.
“Sleek and modern appeal”
Christie’s international head of antiquities G. Max Bernheimer said the figure is “universally recognized as the finest Kiliya idol in existence”.
“This extremely rare work, though dating to the 3rd millennium B.C., is widely appreciated across collecting categories, and was a source of inspiration for 20th century masters for its sleek and modern appeal”.
The last Kiliya type marble figure that appeared at auction was ‘The Schuster Stargazer’ which sold at Christie’s New York in June 2005 for a premium-inclusive $1.81m.
This example, which the auctioneers are expecting to make significantly more, will be offered during Christie’s series of ‘Classic Week’ sales at the end of April which includes separate specialist auctions of antiquities, Old Masters, European sculpture and Japanese and Korean art.