Rudolf Schmidt was born at the beginning of the last century to the successful industrialist Jakob Oskar Schmidt and Emma Schmidt-Müller, patron of the arts. He grew up in the milieu of artists such as Ferdinand Hodler, who painted portraits of both Emma and Rudolf's sister, Erica, as well as Giovanni Giacometti, Hans Berger, and Cuno Amiet. Their cousin Monique married Jean-Paul Barbier and they together created the Barbier-Müller Museum in Geneva. While an economist by trade, Rudolf Schmidt’s passion was directed towards collecting. Beginning in the 1930s, he was stimulated by his travels to Iran and began acquiring Luristan bronzes and Near Eastern seals, encouraged further by his encounter with Elie Borowski in the mid 1940s. Other fields of interest were in the arts of Africa, ancient Egypt and the Etruscan, Greek, and Roman worlds.
He was fortunate to start collecting Egyptian stone vases at an optimum time in the 1950s through dealers, significantly Nicolas Koutoulakis, when the Egyptian government still authorized the antiquities trade. The highlights of the Schmidt collection are those from the Early Dynastic Period, 1st-3rd Dynasty (circa 3100-2647 B.C.). These vessels, made following the unification of Egypt in 3100 B.C., reflect a time of strength, when quarrying expeditions for unusual and colorful stones were undertaken beyond the Nile Valley: diorite, greywacke and serpentine were found in the mountains of the Eastern Desert, basalt north of the Fayum, and anorthosite gneiss was quarried from the region of Abu Simbel in Nubia. The prerogative of royalty, these vases display the honed skill of the master craftsman, which was unsurpassed in later periods. While the first dynasties encompassed practically every type of hard stone available, the Old Kingdom favored alabaster, a softer material, with a period of revival in the 5th-6th Dynasty.
Christie's is pleased to offer this selection from Rudolf Schmidt's collection, following the successful sale of part of the collection in London in October 2014. Both the objects as well as Schmidt's hand-written ledger with over 80 Blatts (inventory sheets) are a gift to future Egyptian collectors and enthusiasts.