Published: February 21, 2017
BOULDER, COLO. — Artemis Gallery welcomed a contingent of new collectors to its January 18–19 auction of classical antiquities and Asian, Pre-Columbian and ethnographic art. The 454-lot sale — the second-best in the company’s history, both in terms of the monetary total and the number of items sold — achieved a strong 65 percent sell-through rate, with intense competition on several pieces.
“Sixty-five percent is a very high sell-through rate for categories that are so specialized,” said Artemis Gallery executive director Teresa Dodge. “We were absolutely amazed that there was so much interest across the board and that there were so many new bidders. I think much of this can be attributed to our reputation for scrupulous research and our ironclad guarantee that everything we sell is authentic and unquestionably legal to purchase.” Dodge also pointed out that the vast majority of items in the sale came with distinguished private or museum provenance, which she said “instills bidder confidence.”
Pre-Columbian collectors pounced on an extremely rare human-bone carving from the Chavin culture of northern coastal Peru. Dating to circa 1400–400 BCE, the artwork replicates a jaguar’s paw, with pointy turquoise claws and a double-headed serpent design around the wrist. Estimated at $2,5/3,500, it opened at $1,200 and was hotly pursued to $13,145.
Also reaching $13,145 was a superb plaster mummy bust of a young man from the Romano-Egyptian period, First Century BCE to First Century CE. Impressively sized (14 by 15¾ inches), the artwork would have been created as a funerary monument for an elite individual. To the Roman viewer, its sensitively molded facial features might have suggested a similarity to a youthful god, perhaps Apollo.
One of the most frequently viewed items in the online catalog was an Egyptian Middle Kingdom tomb model of plaster and wood depicting a brewery and bakery, with figures of two men sealing beer jars and a third figure kneading dough. Formerly held in a New York private collection, the fascinating ancient relic was claimed by a new owner for $7,170.
Other significant Egyptian lots included a circa 323–31 CE Hellenistic pottery roundel with a bas-relief image of a classical deity, possibly Athena, $5,975; and a circa 715–330 BCE wood sarcophagus panel painted with the image of the goddess Nut, $10,456.
The top lot of the sale was a 39-inch-high Apulian (Magna Graecia, southern Italy) red-figure amphora, circa 330-300 BCE, and attributed to A.D. Trendall’s Virginia Exhibition Painter. Profusely decorated with rival warriors, one on horseback; a female bust, floral elements and other fine iconography, this vessel would have been “a highly prized piece throughout the classical world,” Dodge said. It was bid to $43,020.
The select offering of Asian art was led by a late Nineteenth Century Tibetan gilt-bronze sculptural tableau of citipati — male and female skeletal protector deities who dance wildly within a halo of flames. The object of fierce bidding, the lot sold for $11,355.
Also noteworthy among the Asian art lots was a beautiful Twelfth Century Khmer Empire (Angkor culture) lost-wax cast-bronze figure of the Hindu goddess Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu. Standing on a small plinth and adorned with a wealth of necklaces, bracelets, anklets, earrings and a regal headdress, the fastidiously detailed figure was created in a manner that would make it visually interesting from all angles. Estimated at $2/3,000, it rose to $5,079.
Among the ancient jewelry highlights were a museum-quality Viking silver chain with an amulet shaped as Thor’s hammer, $5,378; and a Roman 14K gold ring with a garnet intaglio of Minerva, $2,689.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.artemisgallery.com or 720-890-7700.
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