An Enthusiast's Journey From Rome To Luxor At Bonhams Paris Antiquities Sale

Paris Bonhams will hold its first sale of antiquities in France when it offers The Antiquities sale, de Louxor à Rome, voyage d'un passionné at its Paris saleroom, 4 rue de la Paix on Thursday 7 October. Among the highlights is an Etruscan Montefortino type bronze helmet, circa 4th-3rd century B.C. estimated at €20,000-30,000.

This single owner 132-lot private collection is of great breadth, ranging from the ancient Middle East to the later Roman Empire. The collector did, however, have a particular focus on ancient arms and armour, and the sale offers a wide selection of helmets, swords, shields, military stools and greaves. These include:

A Persian bronze shield, circa early 1st millennium B.C. Estimate: €20,000-30,000.

A Chalcidian tinned bronze helmet, circa 5th-4th century B.C. The Chalcidian helmet is thought to have originated in the city of Chalcis, in Euboea. Chalcis was already a known hub for bronze production by the 5th Century B.C. and is also where this type of helmet is first depicted on painted vases. Derived from Corinthian helmets, Chalcidian helmets were lighter in construction and less restrictive to movement. The hinged cheek pieces found in the helmet in the sale were a later innovation, which allowed the helmet to be fitted securely to the soldier's head. Estimate: €15,000-20,000.

An Urartian bronze helmet, circa 9th-8th century B.C. In the 8th century B.C. Urartu was one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient near east which, at its height, covered an area corresponding to modern-day Armenia and beyond. Estimate: €8,000-12,000.

A Roman iron and bronze military stool, circa 2nd-3rd century A.D. Estimate: €6,000-8,000.

An Urartian bronze sword, circa 8th-7th century B.C. Estimate: €5,000-7,000

An Italic bronze muscle cuirass, Magna Graecia, circa 4th century B.C. Estimate: €2,500-3,500.

Among the other sale highlights are:

A Gallo-Roman gilt bronze Mercury and infant Dionysus, circa 1st-2nd century A.D. Dionysus, son of Zeus and his mortal lover, Semele, was born from Zeus's thigh after he smote Semele with his divine radiance. To save the unborn baby Zeus sewed Dionysus into his thigh, where he remained until his birth. To protect the newborn infant from Zeus's jealous wife Hera, the baby was secretly transported to mount Nysa by Hermes/Mercury to be raised by nymphs. The piece was produced in France (then Gaul), at the height of the Roman Empire and it epitomises the craftsmanship of the province. Estimate: €40,000-60,000

• An Egyptian painted wood coffin, THIRD INTERMEDIATE PERIOD-26th dynasty, circa 1069-525 B.C. The coffin is of typical anthropomorphic form, the large eyes outlined in black, wearing a striped tripartite wig and elaborate broad beaded collar, below which kneels the winged goddess Nut with the Four Sons of Horus standing below. Estimate: €30,000-50,000.

An Egyptian bronze cat, LATE PERIOD-PTOLEMAIC PERIOD, circa 664-30 B.C. Cats played an important role in ancient Egyptian society, in the mortal world cats were viewed as protectors of households and granaries against rodents; tomb scenes show that they were considered to be pets, as they frequently appear seated beneath the chairs of their owners. In the spiritual world, cats were associated with the goddess Bastet. As such cats were honoured both as domestic companions and as sacred animals, and were known to be kept and buried within the precincts of temples of Bastet, particularly at Bubastis in Lower Egypt. Due to its size, which may not have been big enough to hold a mummified kitten, the above lot may have originally sat atop either a wood or a bronze coffin which would have contained a mummified cat. Estimate: €10,000-15,000

Bonhams Head of Antiquities, Francesca Hickin, said: "This is a wonderfully diverse collection reflecting the owner's broad tastes and intellectual pursuits. It is particularly strong in arms and armour with many fine examples from across the ancient world and I anticipate keen interest from collectors in these and the other pieces in the sale. We are excited to be holding our first Antiquities sale on French soil and it seems particularly fitting as the top lot, the Gallo-Roman Bronze Mercury and Infant Dionysus, was produced in France (then Gaul), reputedly discovered in Northern France and has remained in French collections ever since."

22 September 2021

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