LONDON — The sale of Fine Ancient Art & Antiquities at Apollo Art Auctions on January 28 was led by the Prince collection – a private assemblage of more than 150 pieces of Neolithic, Egyptian, Hittite, Greco-Roman, and Near Eastern art. Formed from the 1990s through 2014, most pieces were acquired through leading European dealers. Complete results are available at LiveAuctioneers.
The standout among a large selection of Egyptian faience fragments and inlays was a group of 77 Old Kingdom small blue glazed composition tiles united in a 2ft 1in by 17in (62 by 43cm) frame. Dating from the 3rd Dynasty (circa 2630-2611 BC), this form of faience tile-decoration is thought to have been invented by Imhotep, the renowned architect of king Djoser, to cover some of the interior walls of the Step Pyramid and the so-called South Tomb in the Saqqara necropolis. With a 1970s provenance, they were estimated at £12,000-£20,000 and sold at £55,000 (£68,750, or $87,205 with buyer’s premium).
Two large 19th Dynasty New Kingdom foundation tiles were believed to have come from the Pi-Ramesses palace in Qantir. Each decorated in black with an inscribed cartouche, one carries the prenomen and the other the nomen of Ramesses the Great (circa 1303-1213 BC). Similar to examples at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the tiles were part of a Belgian private collection prior to joining the Prince collection. Again estimated at £12,000-£20,000, the pair sold at £24,000 (£30,000, or $38,050 with buyer’s premium).
Several shards on offer were those collected by the Victorian Egyptologist Rev. William MacGregor (1848-1937). His collection, which formed part of an exhibition at the Burlington Fine Arts Club in 1895, was later dispersed, with these pieces sold through the Parisian works of art dealer Joseph Altounian (1890-1954). They included a Ramesside (19th and 20th Dynasty) inlay fragment of yellow faience that was won with a bid of £4,400 (£5,500, or $6,975 with buyer’s premium). Measuring 2.5 by 1.9in (6.5 by 5cm) and inlaid with two rosettes and a bunch of grapes, it was once part of a larger frieze similar to that found in Helipolis and now on display in the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy.
A series of ancient Egyptian sculptural fragments also sold within or above their estimates as part of the Prince collection. A Late Period, 26th Dynasty (circa 590-570 BC) graywacke fragment of a figure a kneeling position holding a naos shrine in his lap had been acquired from the dealer Lydia Bertens in 2010 and was previously in a Belgium private collection. Originally either a theorophorus or a naophorous statue, it measures 10by 8in (25 by 21cm). Estimated at up to £15,000, it took £22,000 (£27,500, or $34,880 with buyer’s premium).
Measuring 12 by 7in (30 by 18cm), was a Middle Kingdom, 12th Dynasty (circa 1859-1813BC) lower leg fragment from a once large calcite statue of a striding Pharaonic figure. Similar to the style and curvature of statues of Amenemhat III, it was acquired from Sycomore Ancient Art in 2007 and was formerly in a Brussels collection. It took £18,000 (£22,500, or $28,540 with buyer’s premium).
A serpentine torso from a royal shabti made for the tomb of the powerful 18th Dynasty ruler Amenhotep III was sold at £17,000 (£21,250 or $26,950 with buyer’s premium). Although no longer complete, the figure is inscribed with six rows of hieroglyphs – Chapter 6 from the Book of the Dead – and the role it will serve in the afterlife. The tomb of Amenhotep III was originally found during Napoleon’s expedition in 1799 and subsequently rediscovered in 1898 and excavated in 1905-14. This figure, similar to others in many museum collections, had been acquired in 2003 from Aaron Gallery, London.
The death of Amenhotep III marked an important break from tradition. As the pharaoh who introduced a radical religious and artistic reformation, his successor Akhenaten is among the most compelling fully documented figures from the ancient world. His 17-year reign from circa 1352-1336 BC during the 18th Dynasty marked an important break from tradition. He changed his name to Akhenaten, moved the capital from Thebes to the new city of Akhetaten (modern-day Tel el-Amarna), and substituted the traditional polytheism for a new monotheistic cult centered around the deified sun disc, Aten. Akhenaten ruled with his wife, Queen Nefertiti.
The styles that flourished under Akhenaten, known as Amarna art, are unique in the history of Egyptian royal art. Representations are more expressionistic, exaggerated, and stylized. A glimpse of this is seen through a 7 by 6in (17 by 14cm) sandstone bracelet from a once colossal statue. It has Akhenaten’s double cartouches dedicated to the Aten. This fragment, sold at £11,000 (£13,750, or $17,440 with buyer’s premium) was acquired from Glenn Howard Ancient Art with an earlier provenance to an Egyptology collection formed in Sydney, Australia shortly after the Second World War. Under Akhenaten’s successor, the boy king Tutankhamun, led by the vizier Ay, Egypt gradually returned to its traditional polytheistic religion, with Thebes once more the base of royal power.