London’s Pax Romana to welcome New Year with Jan. 10 Antiquities, Ancient Jewellery & Weaponry Auction
Featured: Egyptian ex-museum pieces, Ancient Asian art; unique, independently authenticated helmets, Chinese bronze vessels and jewellery from thousands of years ago
LONDON – Pax Romana, the respected London antiquities gallery and boutique auction house headed by Dr. Ivan Bonchev (PhD, University of Oxford), will launch its 2021 calendar of events with a January 10 auction of connoisseur-level antiquities, ancient jewellery and weaponry. The 610-lot offering is highlighted by Egyptian pieces formerly held in museum collections, TL- or XRF-tested art from Ancient China, and unique helmets dating to as early as 900 BC. All items are offered with no reserve and will be sold to the highest bidder at or above the starting price. Bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers.
“This is truly Pax Romana’s most magnificent sale to date,” said Dr. Bonchev. “We are very proud of the selections included in this auction as well as the painstaking research that supports each piece. Our clientele expects a first-class experience, and we ensure that they receive it, starting with authoritative catalogue descriptions and detailed provenance.”
The auction’s timeline tracks many of the world’s great civilizations through cultural art and relics. Some of the earliest entries represent the man-to-man combat between warring nations of centuries ago. Because of the shape of its crest, a rare bronze Phrygian helmet from the Greek Hellenistic period, circa 500-300 BC, is likely to have been associated with a statue of the god Attis. Starting around 1250 BC, Attis – a god of vegetation – was worshipped by a Phrygian (west-central Anatolia/modern-day Asian Turkey) cult in the mountainous region of Dindymon. The helmet is fully authenticated with an XRF Certificate from an independent Belgian laboratory and has a 2020 European Export license. Its long line of provenance can be traced back to 1897, when it was purchased by Jorg Krause. Auction estimate: £30,000-£50,000.
An extraordinary Roman Montefortino gilded bronze rounded-bowl helmet (circa 100-50 BC) displays a finial for the attachment of a plume. According to Dr. Bonchev, gilded examples of such helmets are very seldom encountered. Their scarcity is due to the fact that they originally were reserved only for men of high rank or great importance. “Only generals and the most prominent soldiers wore such helmets during victory parades,” he said. The helmet has been authenticated by an independent Belgian laboratory, which provided an X-ray fluorescence analysis. Its auction estimate is £15,000-£25,000.
Two other ancient helmets of special note are an Etruscan bronze Negau-style example (circa 450-350 BC) and a fascinating Assyrian bronze helmet (circa 900-700 BC) of pointed conical form with self-contained, hourglass-shape cheek pieces. Like the Montefortino helmet, these two helmets were authenticated by an independent Belgian laboratory. Each is estimated at £15,000-£25,000.
A circa 1100-900 BC Western Zhou bronze cast ritual “gui” vessel exhibits a fine symmetrical design with handles topped by molded dragons and an exterior encircled by a frieze depicting stylized dragons. The vessel’s age was confirmed by an X-ray fluorescence analysis from independent Belgian laboratory, which noted that the metal contents were of the described period, with no sign of modern trace elements in the patina. A similar item recently sold at Christie’s for $100,000. The example offered by Pax Romana is estimated at £25,000-£30,000.
Of a later and admired period in China’s history, a Tang Dynasty (circa 618-907 AD) ceramic figure of a Bactrian camel with foreign (probably European) rider stands 610mm (24in) high and boasts outstanding detail both in its anatomical features and travel paraphernalia. The camel’s head is thrown back as if bellowing, its mouth agape and its teeth and tongue visible. The figure is accompanied by a TL analysis certificate and full report from Ralf Kotalla, an independent German laboratory and is estimated at £7,000-£9,000. Other Tang, Han and Ming pottery animals in the sale include bovines, rabbits, dogs, pigs, a tiger and several other equines.
Several beautiful Ancient Greek kraters will be auctioned. Among them is a circa-400 BC Apulian red-figure krater with pedestal foot, inverted bell-shape body and two lug handles. This object, which stands 275mm (10.83in) high and dates to circa 400 BC, would have been used for mixing wine at drinking parties. Its scenes included a seated, winged victory and a standing, cloaked figure with a walking cane. It is further decorated with a vegetal motif and geometric border. The krater comes with a TL analysis certificate from Ralf Kotalla laboratory and was formerly part of an old and important British collection. Estimate: £9,000-£15,000
A standout within the auction’s array of sculptures is a large Ancient Roman marble Cupid statue carved in the round. In this 520mm (20.5in) interpretation of the Roman god of desire and erotic love, Cupid is depicted nude and fleshy, surmounted on a square base that bears a Greek-language inscription. Translated, it means: “Tatas, son of Theouphistos [fulfilled this] vow.” The statue’s previous ownership included a central London gallery and several private European and US collections. It is estimated at £25,000-£30,000.
No fewer than 10 Gandharan figural artworks will be auctioned, including schist stupas, carved panels, figures of Buddha and other deities. A 740mm (29.1in) schist stone figure of seated, serenely composed Bodhisattva is adorned with jewelry and backed by a halo. It dates to 100-300 AD, which falls within the Kushan period, a time that is regarded by scholars as having been the golden age of artistic production in the area. Estimate: £9,000-£15,000. The largest of the group is an 1100mm (43in) schist stone figure of an elaborately dressed bodhisattva. With its imposing size, this magnificent artwork would be ideally suited to the interior design of a spacious American residence. Estimate: £15,000-£20,000
Ancient wearable jewellery is always a top-ranking category in Pax Romana’s auctions. Literally dozens of gold and silver rings await bidders on January 10, including a rare Medieval gold ring. Its unusual form consists of a hexagonal hoop with a zoomorphic bezel in the form of a bird in flight, its dorsal area adorned with a teardrop-shape garnet cabochon. Dating to 600-900 AD, the ring’s age has been confirmed by an X-ray fluorescence analysis conducted by an independent Belgian laboratory. Estimate: £1,500-£2,500.
A large and very substantial Viking Age (900-1100 AD) gold ring features coiled decoration and a border of stamped triangles arranged around a star composed of circles and crescents. “Vikings were expert navigators, and the constellations signified mystery and power to them. This ring probably once belonged to a Viking captain,” Dr. Bonchev said. Its age was confirmed by X-ray fluorescence analysis from the same Belgian laboratory that tested the Medieval ring. Estimate £3,000-£4,000
The January 10, 2021 auction will start at 6 a.m. US Eastern time/11 a.m. GMT (UK time). White-glove in-house packing and worldwide shipping are handled exclusively by Pax Romana staff. View the fully illustrated catalogue and sign up to bid absentee or live online through LiveAuctioneers. Questions: Call Pax Romana, London, on +44 7424 994167 or email [email protected]. Online www.paxromana.auction.