Grate Expectations
Statue of Ill-Fated Greek Prince at Bonhams Antiquities Sale

The Greek prince Meleager should perhaps have been kinder to his mum. At his birth, the Fates decreed he would die when a branch then burning in the family grate turned to ashes. So, his mother Althaea stole the branch and hid it. Many years later, Meleager accepted the challenge to hunt down the fierce Calydonian Boar which was terrorising the neighbourhood. Among his band of warriors were his maternal uncles, and Atalanta, a formidable huntress and Meleager's beloved. It was she who first downed the beast. Meleager finished it off and awarded her the prized hide. In a fit of male pique, the uncles objected, and in the brawl that followed Meleager killed them. When news of her brothers' deaths reached Althaea, she took the branch from its hiding place and threw it on the fire, thus sealing her own son's fate. The tale is commemorated in a Roman marble torso of Meleager which is one of the leading lots at Bonhams Antiquities sale in London on Thursday 23 July. It is estimated at £15,000-20,000.

Bonhams Head of Antiquities Francesca Hickin said, "Meleager was a favourite subject for artists in the Ancient World. This wonderful torso is a Roman work of the 1st century A.D and derives from a Greek original of the 5th Century B.C. by Skopas of Paros which is now lost. Originally the hero Meleager would have been depicted holding a boar spear in his left hand vertically against the shoulder."

The sale also features a Greek marble head of a woman from the Hellenistic Period, circa 2nd-1st Century B.C. estimated at £30,000-50,000. Veiled heads of women are found from the beginning of the 4th Century B.C. – many identified with goddesses. As with this example, these heads were often separately made from fine marble for insertion into bodies of lesser material, or poorer craftsmanship. Stylistic evidence suggests the head may have been made in Greek Ionia, and although we don't know who the woman was the likelihood is that her statute was destined for public exhibition – a costly undertaking which would suggest a member of the elite.


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