For Immediate Release                                                                                       22 March 2010

Contact: Leonie Ashfield                        +44 (0)20 7752 3121          

The Empain Collection Leads Christie’s Antiquities Sale

South Kensington – Christie’s April sale of Antiquities is led by The Empain Collection of Egyptian Antiquities – over one hundred lots of ancient art, jewellery and sculpture with exceptional provenance. Offered by the grandson of Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain (1852-1929) – engineer, entrepreneur, financier and industrialist, as well as an amateur Egyptologist – the collection is expected to realize in the region of £400,000. The collection will be sold alongside a further 252 lots offered from various owners, with estimates to suit the budget of new collectors and connoisseurs alike ranging from £700 to £250,000. The whole sale is estimated to realize between £3,720,300 and £5,545,000.

The Empain Collection of Egyptian Antiquities
In 1904, after his success building the Paris metro, Belgian-born Édouard Louis Joseph, Baron Empain (1852-1929) travelled to Egypt to oversee another railway project. Although he ultimately lost the railway contract to the British, by that time he had fallen in love with both the Egyptian desert and the Cairene socialite Yvette Boghdadli. He stayed in Egypt and invested heavily in the region, founding the Heliopolis Oasis Company and developing the new luxurious and fashionable quarter of Heliopolis (‘City of the Sun’), which remains popular with wealthy Egyptians today.

It was not until after collaborating with the Belgian government on their national collection at the Musées royaux d’art et d’histoire in Brussels in 1905 – a service for which he received the title of Baron – that Empain began collecting himself. His first interest centered on Old Kingdom stone vessels, but his collection soon grew to include all manner of ancient Egyptian art, focusing on the best quality pieces he could acquire. Highlights on offer include an exceptionally finely carved Egyptian wood statue of the nobleman Khety (lot 22-estimate: £20,000-25,000); an Egyptian linen shroud painted with incredibly vivid colours, still to be seen today – despite it dating from the Late Period, circa 7th-6th century B.C. (lot 114-estimate: £30,000-50,000); and a wonderfully menacing Egypto-Persian bronze bull protome (lot 115-estimate: £50,000-80,000). A broad variety of ancient jewellery includes an Egyptian gold amuletic and garnet bead necklace, New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, circa 1470-1330 B.C. (lot 39-estimate: £10,000-15,000), as well as nine Egyptian gold frog amulets, each inscribed with hieroglyphs reading ‘Amenhotep’, New Kingdom, Dynasty XVIII, circa 1470-1330 B.C. (lot 40-estimate: £10,000-15,000). There are also a number of other group amulet lots such as the group of Egyptian 'Amarna' polychrome glazed composition floral and foliate pendant beads, New Kingdom, late Dynasty XVIII, Amarna period, , circa 1360-1323 B.C. (lot 46-estimate: £10,000-15,000). Made during the reign of Akhenaten, father of Tutankhamun, a highly sought-after period for collectors, these beads form a broad collar necklace and are sure to generate much interest.

Discovered in Kent

Several rare 6th-7th century A.D glass beakers, found during excavations at Ozengell, Kent in the 1970s and 1980s, are offered for sale for the very first time (Lots 187-189). The vessels were uncovered in inhumation burials during excavations of an Anglo-Saxon cemetery. Having been on loan to a local museum since their discovery, the owner has now decided to sell them, which is sure to create a buzz in the collecting world for these rare pieces which are fresh to the market. The rarest, an Anglo-Saxon amber glass claw beaker, of which there are only 55 recorded examples, is dated circa second half 6th-7th century A.D. (lot 189-estimate: £80,000-120,000).

Further Highlights
The most intricate and highest valued piece in the sale is a Roman marble season sarcophagus, circa 280-290 A.D. (lot 280-estimate: £250,000-350,000). Part of the collection of the Albright-Knox Gallery in New York for over six decades until it was bought at auction by the current owner; the work has appeared in numerous exhibitions and literature on the period. Further highlights include several items of silver, such as a rare Greek parcel gilt silver phiale mesomphalos, from Thrace, circa late 5th-early 4th century B.C. (lot 223-estimate: £200,000-300,000). A fine quality example of which very few survive, the plate depicts the myth of Thetis carrying armour to her son, Achilles. As well as a Roman parcel gilt silver skyphos, circa early 1st century A.D. (lot 257-estimate: £100,000-150,000). The sale will also feature a Roman marble cinerary urn decorated in relief with a variety of motifs from large fruit laden garlands to eagles and bearded heads of Zeus-Ammon (lot 258-estimate: £70,000-100,000). Dating from circa A.D. 50-100, with 18th century restorations, the detailed piece was once in the Collection of Henry Pelham-Clinton, 7th Duke of Newcastle, Clumber Park.

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Antiquities - Thursday, 14 April 2011 at 10.30am

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