BOULDER, Colo. – Artemis Gallery hosted a June 20-21 Connoisseurs Auction of exquisite antiquities, Asian and ethnographic art that set a new house record while attracting a legion of new collectors. The fully vetted 481-lot selection, with provenance from some of the world’s finest collections, followed a timeline that started in Ancient Egypt and proceeded through the centuries to the colonial settlements of the New World. In all, the sale surpassed the company’s previous auction record by a remarkable 77 percent. Absentee and live online bidding was facilitated by LiveAuctioneers.
“Quality and authenticity are of paramount importance to our clientele, but they also want the assurance that what they’re bidding on is legal to purchase and, if ever desired, to resell. We offer an unconditional, broad-spectrum guarantee to buyers that we believe is unsurpassed anywhere,” said Artemis Gallery Executive Director Teresa Dodge. “We create a comfort level that is essential to have in place when dealing with collectors of antiquities. I think that’s why we’re able to achieve such excellent prices in literally every category we handle.”
Important Greek Apulian volute krater leads prices realized, sells for $43,575
The top lot of the June 20-21 sale (shown at top of page) was a magnificent Magna Graecia volute krater attributed to the White Saccos Painter, circa 330-310 BCE. Of elegant form and exhibiting elaborate decoration and iconography, this important vessel had graced several private collections over the years and had been sold at Christie’s twice since 1993. A book example, it appears in A.D. Trendall and A. Camitoglou’s First Supplement to the Red-Figured Vases of Apulia, 1983. Its selling price at Artemis Gallery’s sale was $43,575.
A large and elegant circa mid-5th-century BCE Greek hammered-bronze hydria displayed a stunning natural patina of blue, turquoise and teal hues of. The battle for ownership was exclusively online, with the winning bidder paying $31,125. A Greek glass alabastron – a vessel possibly meant to hold perfumed oils – with an appealing zigzag motif reached $9,960.
One of the finest pottery objects in the sale was a Pre-dynastic (circa 4000-3600 BCE) black-top, Nile-silt pottery jar with Bonhams provenance, which sold for $8,715. Its wonderful russet-hued finish was due to its thin iron-oxide slip, and its black upper portion, to the thick carbon deposits to which the vessel was intentionally exposed to obtain the desired effect.
Of perhaps the earliest culture represented in the sale, a Mesopotamian faience shell and bitumen head, circa 14th-13th century BCE, had been published in the 2000 book Beloved by Time: Four Millennia of Ancient Art. Similar to an example held in the collection of The British Museum, this superbly pedigreed figural work was won for $11,205.
Also noteworthy was an Old Babylonian circa 1840-1843 BCE terracotta barrel cylinder fascinated bidders with its approximately 70 lines of cuneiform text. “The inscriptions were made in still-wet clay prior to the firing process,” Teresa Dodge explained. “Kings would inter cylinders of this type beneath structures they had commissioned in their kingdom as a symbol of good luck and to express faith toward the gods they worshipped.” Artemis Gallery provided a full translation of the inscription, which revealed a benevolent message from King Sin-Iddinam of Larsa. The cylinder sold for $9,960.
Roman antiquities ignited strong competition, led by a circa-1st-century CE fresco fragment of Perseus holding Medusa’s head in one hand and a sword given to him by Jupiter (Zeus) in the other. A magnificent artwork and a rare survivor, it sold via the Internet for $28,010. Another great Roman (possibly Roman Tunisian) treasure, a mosaic depicting the head of Mercury, dated to the 1st-2nd century CE and also sold online, for $23,655. Other Roman highlights included a pair of 19K gold bracelets, ex Christie’s and Sotheby’s, $19,920; a superb marbled mosaic blown-glass sprinkler flask with a tall, cylindrical neck, which also sold for $19,920; and a highly detailed and lifelike mosaic of a colorfully feathered rooster, $13,695.
Both Roman and Viking jewelry, known for their great quality and precious-metal purity, was chased by a number of bidders who specifically watch for these specialties in Artemis Gallery’s sales. A pair of sensational circa-2nd-century Roman bracelets whose gold quality tested in excess of 19 karats, came with provenance that included prior sale at both Christie’s and Sotheby’s. The lot achieved an above-estimate $23,655. Hefty Viking jewelry included an intricately twisted gold cuff bracelet with coiled terminals, which made its mark at $4,980.
“Collector interest continues to grow in Pacific Northwest Native American art and cultural objects,” Teresa Dodge observed. An early 20th-century Haida argillite totem comprising a vertical profusion of carved animals, 13.1 inches high, had been estimated at $250-$350. It proved to be one of the sale’s great surprises, garnering 34 bids and soaring to $14,940.
An excellent selection of 19th-century Spanish colonial/Central American art was offered. Among the entries most popular with bidders was a Mexican painted-tin ex voto, or devotional painting. It visually tells the story of a man who fell from a hot air balloon at a great height and was saved through the power of his wife’s prayer to The Virgin of Guadalupe. The 7- by 10-inch artwork sold online for $4,050 against an estimate of $1,200-$1,800.
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