Apollo Art Auctions to host April 27-28 sale featuring connoisseur-level ancient artifacts with superlative provenance

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Many pieces were previously owned by eminent Egyptologists, archaeologists and private collectors including Mrs B Ellison, Dr Rudolf Schmidt, Axel Guttmann, the Barbier-Mueller family and more   

Rare Egyptian Stone And Wood Pseudo-canopic Jars
Rare Egyptian Stone And Wood Pseudo-canopic Jars

LONDON – Following a triumphant January auction that introduced The Prince Collection, Dr Ivan Bonchev, Director of Apollo Art Auctions, takes pleasure in announcing an April 27-28 auction replete with rare and immensely important cultural artifacts from several collections of great renown. 

Among the highlights are precious objects with provenance from Mrs B Ellison, a member of The Egyptian Exploration Society (EES), formerly known as the Egyptian Exploration Fund (EEF). The institution was founded in 1882 by Amelia Edwards and Reginald Stuart Poole with the primary objective being the exploration, surveying and excavation of Egyptian locales. 

Other spectacular pieces in the auction were once owned by Dr Rudolf Schmidt (1900-1970), a collector widely acknowledged for his discerning taste in antiquities. Dr Schmidt inherited a substantial family collection of ancient artifacts, much of which had previously been acquired from the Barbier-Mueller family, esteemed collectors with a more than century-long collecting legacy of their own.

Perhaps no other collector and scholar of European weapons is as revered as Axel Guttmann (1944-2001). Thanks to Mr Guttmann’s generosity, his collection of more than 1,000 relics was widely exhibited and made accessible to researchers and historians, taking the ancient weapons hobby to a new level. His fabled collection was auctioned in 2002 and 2004, and it is now Apollo Art Auctions’ honor to present treasures with provenance from the Guttman collection in their April 27-28 sale. 

A top highlight of the Ancient Egyptian category is an Amarna Period (New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, circa 1353-1322 BC) sandstone relief that depicts a pharaoh, probably Amenhotep IV Akhenaten, worshiping rays emitted by the god Aten. A well-defined sculpture, it is engraved in the distinctive style of the Amarna Period, i.e., characterized by exaggerated features. The published artwork is similar to examples held in The British Museum and Harer family trust collection. It is accompanied by a historical report prepared by Apollo Art Auctions’ new consultant, international cultural heritage expert Alessandro Neri of Florence, Italy. Estimate: £40,000-£60,000 ($50,210-$75,220).

Masterfully executed, a Roman white marble head depicting Dionysus, god of wine and pleasure, is carved in archaic style with idealized fixed features and dates to circa 200 AD. Its most striking detail is the curly hair that encircles the subject’s forehead and connects to a long polygonal beard and moustache. A similar example is seen in Borghese e l’antico, Skira editore, 2011. Described in Apollo Art Auctions’ catalog as having been part of a “herm” (squared stone pillar topped by a carved head and used in ancient times as a boundary marker or signpost), this substantial sculpture measures 470mm by 300mm (18.5in by 12in) and weighs 50+ kg (110+ lbs). Most recently the property of a London gentleman, this stunning sculpture was previously in a Paris collection and, before that, on display at a Parisian gallery, 1970-1990. Its pre-sale estimate is £40,000-£60,000 ($50,210-$75,220).

The ancient Greeks viewed snakes as benevolent creatures with the power to heal. The association endured for centuries, with the image of a snake later being included in the caduceus, international symbol of medicine and toxicology. A rare circa 500-300 BC black-glazed terracotta snake figurine from The Prince Collection displays impressive realism, suggesting the piece may have had totemic value in Greek society. It measures 465mm by 180mm (18.3in by 7.1in), making it a life-size depiction. The slithery serpent joined The Prince Collection in 2020, with provenance from Jean David Cahn (TEFAF). The auction lot is accompanied by a historical report from Alessandro Neri. Estimate: £20,000-£30,000 ($25,105-$37,655)

Similar to an example in the Met Museum collection, a wooden ushabti of Sethi I (Egyptian New Kingdom, circa 1408-1372 BC) presents as a mummiform figure with slender legs, a tapering lower body, fine facial features and a tripartite wig. Rarer than its stone or faience counterparts, the figure stands 300mm by 80mm (12in x 3.1in). A long line of provenance has followed this handsome survivor. Most recently it was the property of a Central London gallery and prior to that, it was acquired in the US art market, was part of a Florida private collection and, decades ago, belonged to the noted American artist Arthur Bowen Davies (1860-1928). Estimate: £20,000-£30,000 ($25,105-$37,655)

The auction offers an extraordinary opportunity to bid on a complete set of Egyptian stone and wood pseudo-canopic jars, whose purpose was to safeguard the lungs, liver, stomach and intestines of the deceased during the mummification process. Dating to the Ptolemaic Period, 21st Dynasty, circa 332-30BC, each stone jar is topped with a wooden head embodying the protective spirit of one of the four sons of Horus. The visually compelling quartet is similar to one seen in The British Museum’s collection. Most recently in a London private collection, it was previously in a Mayfair (London) collection, and prior to that, the 1970s collection of a London professor. Estimate: £12,000-£20,000 ($15,065-$25,110)

Also from The Prince Collection, there are antiquities that were formerly in the possession of The Hans Goedicke Foundation of Egyptology. These particular holdings, unearthed during the famous excavation at Abu Simbel, were originally curated by Hans Goedicke (1926-2015), a renowned professor and chairman of Johns Hopkins University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies who actually worked on the Abu Simbel project. 

The list of prized antiquities from The Prince Collection continues with a pair of sensational Sumerian copper cups with conical bodies adorned with protomes of bulls and rosettes, and spread-winged birds of prey, respectively. Created circa 2600-2200 BC, the artfully-decorated cups display a level of sophistication that was well ahead of its time. The cups were acquired in 2010 from a UK private collection that was formed in the 1970s-1990s. Estimate: £40,000-£60,000 ($50,210-$75,220)

Anyone wishing to party like it’s 450 BC might draw inspiration from an Attic red-figure kylix (wine vessel for social events) bearing the depicting of a departure scene. The style of art identifies it to the circle of the painters of Brussels R 330. It has been TL-tested by QED and conveys with the appropriate report. A similar example may be seen in the Met Museum’s collection, and its long line of provenance shows that before it became the property of a London gallery, it was acquired on the European art market, was held at Nostell Priory, Yorkshire; and had successive owners on the European Continent. Estimate: £7,500-£15,000 ($9,415-$18,830)

“Breathtaking” would be an apt way to describe a circa 618-907 AC Chinese Tang Dynasty terracotta horse. It stands a powerful figure on a rectangular base, with an elaborately decorated “saddle cloth” topped with a seat painted with red and green pigments. The equine’s realistically-detailed musculature and facial features are a wonder to behold. Measuring 660mm by 670mm (26in x 26.4in) and weighing 16.02kg (35lbs 5oz), it will convey to its new owner with a TL testing report from the renowned Ralf Kotalla laboratory. Estimate: £6,000-£9,000 ($7,530-$11,300) 

Dozens of lots of premium-quality ancient jewelry have been curated for the April 27-28 sale, including rings, pendants, necklaces, earrings and much more. A Roman 21.5K gold ring dating to circa 200-400 AD features an agate intaglio carved with the image of Perseus holding a sword and the severed head of Medusa. XRF-tested and supported by an authentication report from ancient jewelry specialist Sami Fortune, it comes to auction with a £4,000-£6,000 ($5,020-$7,520) estimate.

Day two of the auction also features a selection of seals that have been reviewed by Professor Wilfred George Lambert, a collector and lecturer of many years at Birmingham University. Professor Lambert dedicated his career to the study of Near Eastern history, with a particular focus on cylinder seals.

All auction items discussed in this preview have been cleared against the Art Loss Register database and will convey with an ALR confirmation letter. Apollo Art Auctions’ April 27-28, 2024 auction will be held live at the company’s new gallery located at 63/64 Margaret St., London W1W. Start time: 7am US Eastern time/12pm (midday) GMT. All remote forms of bidding will be available, including absentee or live via the Internet through LiveAuctioneers. Apollo Art Auctions accepts payments in GBP, USD and EUR; and ships worldwide. All packing is handled in-house by white-glove professionals. Questions: call +44 7424 994167 or email [email protected]. Online: www.apolloauctions.com

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