NY Antiquities auction takes in $10 million

Thu Jun 9, 2011 6:31pm EDT
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - An Antiquities auction took in $10.35 million at Christie's on Thursday, but its star lot, a 2,000-year-old Roman Imperial marble sculpture expected to fetch more than $1 million, failed to sell.

The total was just above the pre-sale estimate of $9 million to $14 million for the 200-odd lots on offer, of which 70 percent found buyers.

But a marble statue depicting a struggle between the goat-legged god Pan and Hermaphrodite, a headless figure with a sensuous female body and male genitalia, went unsold.

The top lot instead was a Roman marble Isis, circa 1st-2nd century A.D., which sold for $962,500 including the auction house's commission, or nearly twice the low pre-sale estimate.

"Ancient sculpture from the Golden Age of collecting once again exceeded all expectations," said Molly Morse Limmer, Christie's New York head of Antiquities, referring to top-selling items.

Another highlight was a Roman marble head of Apollo, circa late 1st-early 2nd century A.D., which soared to $900,000, nearly four times its estimate.

Christie's International department head for Antiquities, G. Max Bernheimer, added that "the market for all sectors, from the Near East, Egypt, Greece and Rome, continues to attract aggressive international bidding."

The top lots were snapped up almost exclusively by European or other international private collectors.

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 when it was sold last year.