Thursday 4 June 2015

Christies Antiquities Grabfest begins soon

Christie's Antiquities sale 3748 (Lots 1-178), takes place today in Rockefeller Plaza, New York. Starts at 10 am (NY time). It includes items from the Cattaui collection (Cairo) Lots 1-31, but several items shown in the period photos of the collection are not here. Where is the original state of the collection documented for future reference? There is lot 34 a cycladic figure with intriguing toolmarks. There is an odd-looking protome (lot 99 odd patina too). A bit later we may spot the headless Palmyrene seated statue (funerary monument) lot 95 which I discussed earlier. Go on Christie's, do the decent thing. Then we have the items from the crumbling packing material of the New York collection of  Elias S. David (d.1969) sold by his kids. These items (lots 101- 146), include quite an assemblage of cunies, and there is some Egyptian stuff and some odds and ends. As a dealer's stock, it is an interesting assemblage. What do we make of that surreal "luristan" bobble-pot? Note that even though these items are supposed to have been in the US since before 1969, there is a warning "Please note that this lot requires an Office of Foreign Assets Control license in order to be exported out of the U.S.". How "interesting" that this applies not to objects from Iraq or Syria (or Egypt) but Iran - that is is we consider all items on the market labelled "Luristan" actually come from that province of Iran...

What trade antiqui-vandal sawed off the other two thirds of the mummy case lid lot 168 (coll. hist. only back to 1978) , and where is the rest of it? The condition reports are a bit sketchy, as usual, I would like to know more about the corrosion products on one or two of the copper alloy objects. Those that have been professionally conserved should have had some analysis results and a conservation report associated with them, no trace of that in the catalogue.

UPDATE 4th June 2015
The performance of the Cattaui collection was a little erratic, with some low bids and non-sales, but some prices shooting up above the estimate. Lot 34 failed to sell (deservedly so in my opinion),  the protome (lot 99) too. The bobble-pot had no reserve and sold for well below the optimistic estimate ( Price Realized $1,500 - Estimate $7,000 - $9,000). Lot 95, the Palmyra statue fetched $45,000, despite the lack of any useful collecting history. That is what the market looks like today - buyers who don't give a tinkers. That the coffin lid had been sawn up bothered nobody, it sold for $68,750 (Est. $15,000 - $20,000).

As for the  Elias S. David stuff, the pattern of prices realised suggests there is something quite interesting going on. There are several groups, the cunies (tablets, cones, the cylinders a couple of inscribed bricks). All except one of these lots (lots 101 to  121) achieved prices well over the upper estimate. this suggests that there is a lot of competition for inscriptions ostensibly with good secure provenances. Is this connected with the Green Collection and its imitators?  The cylinder I discussed earlier (lot 116) reached $941000 (upr est 350 000). This material groups suspiciously to specific places and times, and it is difficult to accept that David put it together from random purchases of material he found floating around the market which had entered the US at random. Then there was a group of lots of artefacts from Mesopotamia and Iran ('Luristan') the majority of which did miserably by comparison, most of them failing to reach the lower limit - even Sumerian pieces (lots 122-134 and 142). Things picked up again with the Egyptian items (135 - 142), many of high quality, and again several upper estimates were equalled or exceeded, but things slowed down again with the Classical antiquities which were rather pedestrian (lots 143- 146). Is there more of the Elias S. David "collection" still to come, or is what was offered today the whole assemblage?

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