LONDON – To collectors of ancient art, scholarship and provenance are the two most important points to consider before making a purchase. It is no coincidence that those same criteria are the business cornerstones of Pax Romana, Britain’s premier gallery and boutique auction house specializing in antiquities, cultural art and coins.
Featured: Bronze Age Western Zhou wine vessel, Tang Dynasty polo horses with riders, Gandharan schist stone figures of Buddha, magnificent Ming Dynasty wanli porcelain jar with dragon motif
Headed by Dr Ivan Bonchev (PhD, University of Oxford), Pax Romana organizes each of its auction events as a virtual journey through the past, with rare and stunning artifacts as its mile markers. On Sunday, May 2nd, Pax Romana will take collectors on a virtual voyage through Asia, starting with museum-quality art and relics of Indus Valley civilizations and time-traveling forward to the Crusader era. TL-tested Chinese terracotta, exquisitely carved Gandharan statues, Greco-Bactrian silver and Sassanian bronze are among the leading categories in this sale, with each item authenticated and certified by Dr Bonchev.
An important, very early bronze piece, a Chinese Western Zhou “you,” or ritual wine vessel with cover, dates to circa 1045-771 BC. To confirm its authenticity, it underwent an X-ray fluorescence analysis which showed the chemical composition to be consistent with the described period, with no modern trace elements detected. Following a long record of private British ownership, this lot comes to auction with a £20,000-£40,000 estimate.
Three rare and exceptional relics of the Chinese Warring States era (circa 475-221 BC), all XRF tested for authenticity, will be offered to bidders on May 2nd. The first is a silver and gold-inlaid cylindrical bronze box beautifully decorated with two highly prancing geometric griffins. It is estimated at £10,000-£20,000 and will convey to the new owner with its XRF testing certificate.
The second is a silver and gold-inlaid hook with intertwined dragon decorations and a figural dragon’s head at the top of an arched neck. A comparable example sold recently at Christie’s for US$62,500; Pax Romana has placed a modest estimate £6,000-£9,000 estimate on this mesmerizing object. The third Warring States highlight is a bronze bell with a sub-cylindrical body, long circular-sectioned handle, and very attractive patina overall. Like the dragon hook, it is expected to reach £6,000-£9,000 at auction.
Gandhara was an ancient region in the Peshawar basin, corresponding to present-day northwest Pakistan and northeast Afghanistan. It was a major center for Greco-Buddhism and, during the Kushan period (circa 75-451), flourished as a center for artistic production. Two outstanding examples of sculpture from the Kushan period are entered in the auction. A majestic black schist stone torso of Buddha, with striking facial features and an elaborate coiffure and headpiece, comes from an important private London collection. It was previously held (since the 1960s) in the distinguished collection of Alain Kottlar. Estimate: £15,000-£30,000. Another extraordinary artwork of the same period is a huge (1120mm/44.1in) schist stone figure of a standing Buddha with a circular halo, dressed in a flowing monastic robe. This substantial work weighs 60+kg/132+lbs. Estimate: £20,000-£40,000
The Buddha is also depicted, in bas relief, on a Chinese Northern Wei Dynasty (circa 386-534 AD) painted stone panel or stela, flanked by two other robed figures. Smiling and with his right hand raised in a gesture symbolizing Abhaya Mudra, or fearlessness, the artwork carries a £6,000-£9,000 estimate.
An exciting selection of Chinese Tang Dynasty (circa 618-907) terracotta and ceramic figures includes subjects not often seen in the fine art marketplace. Three lots, in particular, are worthy of special attention. All will convey with a Ralf Kotalla TL certificate and full report stating that their chemical composition is consistent with the period indicated in their respective catalogue descriptions, and with no modern trace elements detected.
The largest of the group is a ceramic Bactrian (Mongolian) camel with rider, which stands 700mm by 560mm (see image at top of page). The well-detailed desert beast displays the mane, beard and stature characteristic of its species, and is shown with his head thrown back and mouth wide open, as though bellowing loudly. The rider, who appears to have non-Asiatic features, wears knee-high boots and a long-sleeved green tunic. Formerly in an old British collection, this intrepid duo will cross the auction block with a £10,000-£20,000 estimate.
Also poised for the spotlight are a pair of Tang Dynasty terracotta female polo players mounted on wonderfully detailed horses striding as though in full gallop. One of the riders extends her mallet as though preparing to strike the ball, while the other rider has her mallet arm at a 90-degree angle to prevent obstruction to her horse’s legs. Not counting the height of the display stands, the pair measures 420mm x 410mm and is estimated at £6,000-£12,000. Having identical dimensions, a pair of expertly modeled terracotta horses – with male and female riders and a bird and small dog in tow, will be offered with an £8,000-£12,000 estimate.
Arguably the finest ceramic in the sale is a magnificent Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD) cobalt blue and white wanli porcelain jar with a five-clawed-dragon motif profusely and continuously decorating the vessel. Its dimensions are 530mm by 430mm, and its line of provenance includes and old Somerset (England) collection formed between 1980-2000. Estimate: £20,000-£30,000
Pax Romana is a member of the British Numismatic Trading Association (BNTA) and the Art Loss Register (AR). Each and every auction item sold by Pax Romana conveys with a professional Certificate of Authenticity signed by Dr Ivan Bonchev. The company ships worldwide, and all packing is handled by white-glove specialists in-house.
The May 2nd auction will commence at 8 a.m. US Eastern time/1 p.m. UK time. View the fully illustrated auction catalogue and sign up to bid absentee or live online via LiveAuctioneers. Questions: call Pax Romana, London, on +44 7424 994167 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Online www.paxromana.auction.
Rate of conversion: £1 = US$1.38