Wednesday, 30 November 2022

"Ancient Art" Conundrum

Estimate: £4,000 - 6,000 (+bp*) Sold for (Inc. bp): £4,680

In a break with their normal practice, it seems that you can now comment below the YouTube videos that TimeLine Auctions uses to display some of their more recent acquisitions. An example is this rather odd-looking ["unbelievable"] relief in ancient Egyptian style (whose collection history only goes back to "[a] French collection, 1990s-early 2000s"). Where is it from?

But there are some comments. Barb in FL 4 days ago wrote: "Shouldn't it be returned to Egypt to a museum? Who stole it in the first place?" [no reply as yet]. I was more interested in its form and iconography.
PortAntissues 19 hours ago
This caught my eye. This is from an external surface (sunken relief) but where and how did it get this extensive wear? You do not say. What was the context it was discovered in (a floor maybe?) that would shed some light on its current condition? "French collection, 1990s-early 2000s" does not tell us much about the collection history or actual origins. How did it leave Egypt, is there any documentation?

What does the back look like? Has it been sawn off a larger block, or was it originally a slab? You do not say.

The iconography is a bit weird isn't it? Did the artist intend to depict him with deformed shoulders and misshapen arms? Also the profile of the "wife" is rather poor, with piggy little eyes.

If this is a seated figure and the horizontal lines are supposed to be their thighs (yes?) why do they look different from other reliefs of this period where a sceptre is shown, where the arm is above the thigh, not resting on it? Anyway, try and put your elbows on the top of your thighs while sitting on a stool. Where are the figure's bottoms? The ancient Egyptians were very fond of bottoms (aren't we all?) and it is odd that this couple were shown in such a bottomless form.

This craftsman, whenever he lived was not very good, was he? As "art". it's all a bit gawky and odd looking. Perhaps that is why Mr Tim Wonnacott is so enamoured of it? I wonder who will end up buying it?

No answer to that, either.  

LOT 0028 is dated by eminent TimeLine specialists ("Dr Alberto Maria Pollastrini, Paul Whelan, MA, Peter Clayton, FCILIP, Dip, Arch, FSA, FRNS") to the Ramesside period. Maybe, I am not sure on what evidence. But compare it with - for example - this one of Kha'emweset, son of Ramesses II. There are some differences.

I think it is especially disappointing that the people that put it on the market have disconnected it from the information about its biography. For example was it found redeposied in a later context - like, maybe, used as a paving stone, but face-up. Or is the erosion due to water movement? What was its history? If we postulate that it is from the exterior wall of a tomb chapel, to whom did it belong? We obviously will never know, the passage of this object through the market has ensureed that this information is lost.

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