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  • Press release
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  • 27 September 2018

PRESS RELEASE: Christie's to Offer a 3,000-Year-Old Assyrian Relief of a Winged Genius from the Palace of Ashurnasirpal II - 31 October 2018

• FINEST EXAMPLE OF ASSYRIAN ART TO COME TO MARKET IN DECADES
• ONE OF THE EARLIEST WORKS OF ANCIENT ART SENT TO AMERICA IN 1859
• SOLD BY THE VIRGINIA THEOLOGICAL SEMINAR

New York – Christie’s announces an important Assyrian relief will highlight the Antiquities sale on 31 October at Christie’s in New York as part of Classic Week (estimate on request). The finest example of Assyrian art to come to the market in decades, the work will be sold on behalf of the Virginia Theological Seminary to underwrite a scholarship fund.

According to G. Max Bernheimer, International Department Head of Antiquities, “This Assyrian relief is without question the most exquisite to come to the market in more than a generation, in terms of the style, condition and subject.  The last example, sold by Christie’s London, was the Canford School relief which depicted two figures that were only preserved from the waist up, while here we have a complete figure, perfectly-preserved from head to toe.  The Canford School relief set a world-record in 1994 when it sold for nearly $12 million.  The Virginia Theological Seminary acquired this relief through the American missionary Dr. Henri Byron Haskell (1781-1864) in 1859, who bought it directly from Sir Austen Henry Layard, the excavator of the royal palace at Nimrud. The relief arrived in Alexandria in 1860, making it one of the earliest-known examples of ancient art to reach American soil.”

The imposing large-scale Assyrian gypsum stone relief is over 7 feet tall and once adorned the walls of the massive Northwest Palace commissioned by King Ashurnasirpal II (883-859 B.C.) at Nimrud in modern-day Iraq. The royal palace was one of the largest in antiquity, reflecting Ashurnasirpal’s status as the most powerful ruler of the largest empire ever seen, spanning much of the “cradle of civilization.”

The relief depicts a Winged Genius, a deity also known as an Apkallu, holding a bucket and a cone-shaped object, signifying fertility and protection for the king. The Apkallu has feathered wings and wears elaborately detailed robes, a horned headdress, an earring, a necklace and armlets, and has two daggers and a whetstone tucked into fabric folds at his waist. The work is in excellent condition and skillfully carved with superb details, nearly all preserved, offering a glimpse into past – showing the human form, costume and jewelry from nearly 3,000 years ago.

One of the earliest-known works of ancient art sent to the United States, the frieze was acquired in Mosul in 1859 by an American missionary named Dr. Henri Byron Haskell from the English archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard, who had unearthed the royal palace at Nimrud. In addition to this relief, which has been housed at the Virginia Theological Seminary since 1860, Haskell also sent five other examples to Bowdoin College in Maine and another which is now housed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Other institutions and approximately 60 museums around the world contain reliefs from Ashurnasirpal’s palace, including the British Museum, the Brooklyn Museum and the Yale University Art Gallery. 

Note to Editors: The current world record for an Assyrian relief sold at Christie’s London in 1994, the Canford School reliefs set the record for the category, realizing 7,701,500 GBP.

Antiquities

31 Oct

20 Rockefeller Center, New York, NY, 10020

  • Auction

    31 Oct, 12pm (Lots 1 - 101)

  • Viewing

    New York

    25 Oct - 31 Oct, 10am - 5pm

    26 Oct, 10am - 5pm

    27 Oct, 10am - 5pm

    28 Oct, 1pm - 5pm

    29 Oct, 10am - 5pm

    30 Oct, 10am - 5pm

About Christie’s

Founded in 1766, Christie’s is a world-leading art and luxury business. Renowned and trusted for its expert live and online auctions, as well as its bespoke private sales, Christie’s offers a full portfolio of global services to its clients, including art appraisal, art financing, international real estate and education. Christie’s has a physical presence in 46 countries, throughout the Americas, Europe, Middle East, and Asia Pacific, with flagship international sales hubs in New York, London, Hong Kong, Paris and Geneva. It also is the only international auction house authorized to hold sales in mainland China (Shanghai).

Christie’s auctions span more than 80 art and luxury categories, at price points ranging from $200 to over $100 million. In recent years, Christie’s has achieved the world record price for an artwork at auction (Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvador Mundi, 2017), for a single collection sale (the Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller, 2018), and for a work by a living artist (Jeff Koons’ Rabbit, 2019).

Christie’s Private Sales offers a seamless service for buying and selling art, jewellery and watches outside of the auction calendar, working exclusively with Christie’s specialists at a client’s individual pace.

Recent innovations at Christie’s include the groundbreaking sale of the first NFT for a digital work of art ever offered at a major auction house (Beeple’s Everydays, March 2021), with the unprecedented acceptance of cryptocurrency as a means of payment. As an industry leader in digital innovation, Christie’s also continues to pioneer new technologies that are redefining the business of art, including the creation of viewing and bidding experiences that integrate augmented reality, global livestreaming, buy-now channels, and hybrid sales formats. 

Christie’s is dedicated to advancing responsible culture throughout its business and communities worldwide, including achieving sustainability through net zero carbon emissions by 2030, and actively using its platform in the art world to amplify under-represented voices and support positive change.

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