In its May 26th Antiquities & Ancient Art: A Study auction, Hindman examines what it means to be an antiquarian in every sense of the word. Over 200 lots, the sale highlights the civilizations that formed the foundation of our modern world, offering objects for novice and experienced collectors alike. From an Egyptian female figure made of the civilization’s most cherished magical material, faience, to a Roman portrait head of Antisthenes, who laid the foundation of Cynic philosophy, to a Roman marble Capitoline type statue of Venus, the goddess of Love, the oldest god according to Plato’s Symposium, this sale explores just what it means to be a scholar and aficionado of the ancient world.
A Masterpiece for the Ages
The top lot of the auction is expected to be an extraordinary Roman marble statue of the goddess Venus (lot 173; estimate: $200,000 - $300,000).
During the 4th Century B.C., the ancient Greek sculptor Praxiteles created a legendary statue of the goddess of love in modest pose known today as the Aphrodite of Knidos (or Cnidus). It was one of the first life-sized representations of the nude female form in Greek history. Prior to its creation, Greek sculpture had been dominated by nude figures of heroic men. Even in antiquity, the sculpture was considered a masterpiece with famed Roman historian Pliny the Elder saying it was “superior to all statues.” To the Greeks, she was Aphrodite; to the Romans, she was Venus. To all, she is the goddess of Love, whose iconic image remains compelling to this day.
Though the original Greek sculpture is no longer in existence, a myriad of nude Aphrodite were created during the Hellenistic and Roman period, which the wealthy Romans of the Imperial period acquired to decorate their villas and gardens. Among these versions, two principal types repeat her modest pose: the Capitoline Venus and the Medici Venus, which differ from each other in their formal details. The remarkable statue offered in this auction belongs to this series, and even combines traits of one (the hairstyle and the position of the feet of the Capitoline Venus) with the other (the elongated proportions and the presence of the dolphin on the Medici statue).
Relics of the Nile
The auction begins with 49 lots from one of humanity’s earliest and most influential civilizations: the ancient Egyptians. Among these lots is a female figure molded and glazed in blue faience (lot 21; estimate: $70,000 - $90,000), a substance that the Egyptians believed bestowed a magical property to the objects crafted in it. This figure is identified as a Khener-dancer meant to convey sexuality and vitality and was likely a part of a larger set originally. This particular piece is considered one of the best-known examples in private hands and was exhibited at the Cincinnati Art Museum and Brooklyn Museum of Art in the 1990s.
Other Egyptian highlights include an Egyptian bronze cat (lot 29; estimate: $50,000 - $70,000); an Egyptian gilt cartonnage mummy mask (lot 35; estimate: $50,000 - $60,000); and an alabaster head of a jackal (lot 49; estimate: $30,000 - $50,000).
The Fertile Crescent
The auction continues with objects from ancient Near East civilizations that were so foundational to modern society that the region is commonly known as the Cradle of Civilization. The section includes weaponry, pottery, writing tablets, stone figures, and more. Among the highlights is a Neo-Assyrian carved hematite head of the demon Pazuzu (lot 65; estimate: $10,000 - $15,000). Pazuzu was renowned for protecting humans from plague and evil forces. This particular example, like many Pazuzu heads, was discovered with drilled holes or loops, suggesting it was worn around the neck. It is thought that pregnant women would wear these heads to protect their unborn babies from evil forces.
Wearable Wealth from the Ancient World
A constant across the countless civilizations that have risen and fallen in human history is the presence of jewelry. Whether that be a simple stone-carved medallion or an intricate golden crown, humans have always felt the need to adorn themselves with items that accentuate their beauty, wealth, and status. This auction features 32 lots of jewelry including a Western Asiatic gold bracelet with lion-headed terminals from the 8th – 6th Century B.C. (lot 79; estimate: $10,000 - $15,000) that is expected to draw significant interest.
The Foundation of Western Civilization
Closing out the auction are over 100 lots of pottery, statues, sculptures, bronzes, glassware, and more from ancient Greco-Roman cultures. Headlined by the Roman Venus statue, marble pieces are expected to be in high demand during the auction, including a Roman portrait head of the Greek philosopher Antisthenes (lot 163; estimate: $100,000 - $150,000), which should draw significant attention from bidders. Other marble highlights include a Cycladic reclining female figure (lot 110; estimate: $30,000 - $50,000); a Greek head of a lion (lot 121 estimate: $30,000 - $50,000); and a Roman portrait head of a man (lot 202; estimate: $30,000 - $40,000).
How to Bid
Bidding for the May 26th Antiquities and Ancient Art: A Study auction will begin at 10am CT, and will be available in-person, via phone, and online via Hindman’s Digital Bid Room, and additional online bidding platforms. Additional information about the auction can be found via the website page and the catalogue.
Hindman is one of the nation’s leading fine art auction houses connecting cities nationwide to the global art market and providing expertise across all categories, sales channels and price points. Hindman will celebrate its 40th anniversary this October. Since its founding, Hindman has come to operate more salerooms in the United States than any other auction house and conducts over 140 auctions a year in categories such as fine art, jewelry and watches, modern design, books and manuscripts, couture, furniture and decorative arts, Asian art, Western art, antiquities, and more. Hindman was formed through the acquisition of two premier auction houses, Leslie Hindman Auctioneers (est.1982) and Cowan’s Auctions (est. 1995). Headquartered in Chicago, Hindman is home to over 160 employees, with additional offices in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, Milwaukee, Naples, Palm Beach, San Diego, Scottsdale, St. Louis and Washington D.C. Visit HindmanAuctions.com for more information.