• Antiquities  auction at Christies

    Sale 2232

    Antiquities

    11 December 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 125

    A GREEK BRONZE FIGURE OF AN AFRICAN

    HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA LATE 2ND-EARLY 1ST CENTURY B.C.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A GREEK BRONZE FIGURE OF AN AFRICAN
    HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA LATE 2ND-EARLY 1ST CENTURY B.C.
    The lean graceful youth depicted nude, standing with his weight on his slightly bowed left leg, leaning into his left hip, his right leg bent at the knee and turned out, the foot pulled back with the heel raised, the rounded buttocks prominent, his long torso modelled with attenuated musculature, the right arm raised before him and bent at the elbow, the palm open toward his face, his left arm lowered behind, the head turned slightly to his right on his long sturdy neck, the face with the distinct features of an African, with a square jaw, high cheekbones, a broad nose and finely-defined prominent lips, the eyes deeply recessed, likely once to receive now-missing inlays, the disheveled curly hair treated impressionistically
    10¼ in. (26 cm.) high


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    Youths of Nilotic descent often served as models for Greek artists in the Hellenistic Period who sought to study the non-Greek features of various foreign types. As Snowden informs (p. 187 in Bugner, ed., The Image of the Black in Western Art, vol. 1), "The wide variety of physical features in blacks, the 'pure,' the Nilotic, and various gradations of black-white mixture, provided a range of opportunity for the employment of artistic skill." The Ptolemaic military exploits into Ethiopia brought large numbers of the African population into Egypt. Snowden acknowledges that the sheer quantity of these studies would indicate that the black "constituted a much larger element in the population of the Hellenistic world than has generally been realized (op. cit. p. 188)."

    While many of the more famous images from this period tend to exploit the caricature of the slave and beggar, there are fine works of art, such as the present example, that portray these subjects with "sympathetic interest and dignity" (p. 124 in Kozloff and Mitten, The Gods Delight, The Human Figure in Classical Bronze). See for example the black youth, now in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, clad in a mantle usually reserved for the intellectual classes (Kozloff and Mitten, op. cit., no. 19, p. 124ff.). For a bronze of similar size and grace, now in the Bibliothque Nationale, Paris, see pls. 253-255, pp. 200-201 in Bugner, ed., op. cit.

    Provenance

    French Private Collection (with a 1972 appraisal by Jean-Loup Depras, Galerie Orient-Occident, Paris).
    Anonymous sale; Christie's, New York, 8 June 2005, lot 118.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF MR. & MRS. CHARLES W. NEWHALL, III