• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12257

    Antiquities

    25 October 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 87

    A GREEK MARBLE HEAD OF A RULER

    HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 3RD-2ND CENTURY B.C.

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    A GREEK MARBLE HEAD OF A RULER
    HELLENISTIC PERIOD, CIRCA 3RD-2ND CENTURY B.C.
    15 9/16 in. (39.5 cm.) high


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    This head of Dionysos Tauros depicts the youthful god with his wavy hair bound in a diadem that is secured at the back, the ends falling over his left shoulder. From the locks above his temples emerge prominent horns (one now-missing). While the condition does not allow certain attribution, the youthful portrayal and the diadem indicate that it is likely a portrait of a Hellenistic ruler, perhaps one of the Seleucids, in the guise of Dionysos Tauros. Bull horns are not altogether uncommon on portraits of Hellenistic rulers as there is a strong literary tradition on the subject. In The Bacchae, Euripides describes the newly born god as bull-horned, and later goes on to detail how the god appeared as a bull-calf to Pentheus, King of Thebes (verse 610-620, 922). During the 4th century B.C., Libanius (Book XI, p. 466.13) writes of a bull-horned statue of Seleukos at Antioch. This connection between the Dionysos Tauros and the Hellenistic rulers was a channeling of aspects of the god’s power rather than a cult association. For other Hellenistic royal portraits from the 4th century with horns, see R.R.R. Smith, Hellenistic Royal Portraits, Oxford, 1988; for Diodochi, see cat. nos. 9-10, pls. 10.1-4; for Seleukos VI Epiphanes Nikator, see pl. 77.3; Demetrios Poliorketes, see cat. no. 4, pls. 4-5l; Antakya Seleukos, see no. 94, pls. 56.4-6; and an unidentified ruler’s head in Sparta, see cat. no. 108, pl. 62-5-6.

    Provenance

    with R.J. Meyers, New York (Ancient Art, 1974, no. 5).
    Private Collection, U.S.
    Antique Coins and Archaeological Antiquities, Robert Deutsch, Tel Aviv, 2 October 2007, lot 536.
    with Fortuna Fine Arts, New York.
    Acquired by the current owner from the above, 2008.


    Pre-Lot Text

    PROPERTY FROM A GERMAN PRIVATE COLLECTION