Early Roman sculpture could sell for $10 million

Wed May 25, 2011 4:47pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A 2,000-year old sculpture that may have been used as a garden ornament by its wealthy owner could sell for upwards of $10 million at auction next month, Christie's said on Wednesday.

The 41-inch-high piece, which depicts a struggle between the goat-legged god Pan, and Hermaphrodite, a headless figure with a sensuous female body and male genitalia, is one of 200 lots that will go under the hammer during the sale of Antiquities on June 9.

"The group was sculpted during the early Roman Imperial period, circa 1st century A.D., but is based on an original from the mid-2nd century B.C., when illustrations of the struggles between bestial forces and a nymph or Hermaphrodite were immensely popular," the auction house said in a statement.

During Roman times, the wealthy typically displayed sculptural groups like the de Clercq Pan and Hermaphrodite in their well-ordered gardens, with the works' bestial nature intended to provide contrast, Christie's explained.

Other highlights of the sale of Greek, Egyptian and Near Eastern art include a Roman marble Hercules and a Roman marble Isis, each circa 1st-2nd century A.D. and estimated at $500,000 to $800,000.

Antiquities have fetched some astonishing prices in recent years. A marble bust sold for $23.8 million at Sotheby's' in December, nearly 10 times its pre-sale estimate.

Five bidders competed for the "Marble Portrait Bust of the Deified Antinous, Roman Imperial, Reign of Hadrian," circa A.D. 130-138, which went to an unidentified European collector.