Egyptian and Roman bronzes, including several body parts, were among the top performers at a vast 3000-plus lot sale held by TimeLine (25% buyer’s premium).
A significant entry offered on the first day of the six-day auction that ran from September 1-6 in Harwich, Essex, was a 10in (25cm) 1st-2nd century AD bronze figure of Juno, striking a pose similar to the colossal marble statue of Juno Sospita in the Vatican museum in Rome.
Its provenance was traced back to Horatio and Patsy Melas, well-established antiquity collectors who formed their collection in Alexandria during the first half of the 20th century. The figure moved with the family to Switzerland in the 1960s and was later inherited by the couple’s son Kyros, who added to the collection until it was dispersed in the late 1990s.
This provenance, together with its appealing patination and fine detailing, drew eager interest and it tipped over top estimate to sell for £11,000. (The wife of Jupiter also featured on the handle of a bronze 10in (26cm) high Roman jug from the 1st-2nd century AD which was covered in a rich verdigris patina and nearly doubled hopes to sell for £12,000.)
Cast far and wide
Perennially popular among collectors, Roman bronze body parts combine academic interest with decorative appeal. Moreover, as bronze statues were built in separate parts welded together by casting, such fragments are also quite numerous.
High sums are paid for the visually striking; in June, TimeLine sold a 1st-2nd century hollow-formed near life-size bronze foot in an ornate sandal for £75,000.
Nothing was in that price range here, but a bronze foot and two hands drew decent bidding.
The trio was led by a 2nd-3rd century AD life-sized bronze hand heavily marked with a Greek inscription in its open palm. It may have been a votive offering or used on a military standard carried at the head of a century.
This potentially evocative piece of Roman military history was bid to £14,000 against a £6000-8000 guide.
The other bronze hand, realistically modelled with anatomically detailed nails and knuckles and apparently coming from a statue of “a hero, athlete, god or an emperor”, took £8000 against a £5000-7000 estimate.
The c.1st century hollow-formed bronze left leg, slightly larger than life-size and preserved from the foot to just below the knee in the attitude suggesting the classic Greek ‘contrapposto’ pose, sold within estimate for £8500.
Egyptian in a kilt
A highlight among the ancient Egyptian lots was a 26th Dynasty bronze figure of the ram-headed Khnum, showing one of the earliest gods of Egypt advancing in a characteristic Egyptian Atef crown and pleated kilt.
This 11in (28cm) high piece, the property of a central London gentleman and formerly acquired in the 1950s-60s for the collection of Major J Findley (1915-90), sold towards its bottom guide for £22,000.
Getting away elsewhere, a slightly larger and later Ptolemaic Period bronze statue of Osiris, one of the best-known godsfrom ancient Egypt, was formerly in the collection of the late Robert Wilson, a collector and architect from Houston, Texas, reputedly since the 1960s. It sold for a middle-estimate £9000.
The top-seller on day one was a remarkably preserved pale-green aqua glass lion-headed beaker or rhyton, reputed to have come from a Surrey gentleman who had acquired it from a private European collector living in London.
TimeLine described it as “an excessively rare museum piece similar to the famous ‘Shumei beaker” in the Miho Museum in Japan and possibly emanating from the workshops established around royal residences during the Achaemenid empire in ancient Iran.
It had failed to sell in TimeLine’s equivalent sale last year estimated at £120,000-170,000 but a more modest guide of £40,000-60,000 this time helped it to get away for £41,000.