Last week’s Antiquities sales had more than a few surprises. At Sotheby’s, the top lot had great provenance but that still didn’t explain the $1.5m price:
The third-century marble relief panel, a rare piece representing Dionysiac scenes with satyrs and bacchants, had been expected to fetch between 150,000 and 250,000 dollars. Sotheby’s vice president and senior specialist in antiquities, Florent Heintz, told AFP that only four or five such panels exist in the world. Six bidders competed for the piece before it sold to an anonymous telephone bidder. […]
The piece had remained in the famed Borghese family collection in Rome for nearly 300 years before stints with French actress Cecile Sorel, who had used it to decorate a bathtub in her Paris townhouse, and former French prime minister Paul Reynaud. When he searched through the Louvre Museum’s database, Heintz traced the panel’s ownership back to Zola in a document dated 1903, one year after the author’s death. Other antiquities featured in the sale were a Roman bronze figure of Aphrodite that sold to a buyer for 530,500 dollars, and an Egyptian red granite head dated 1479-1450 BC that sold for 272,500 dollars. A second-century Roman marble head of Hermes, by Greek sculptor Lysippos, fetched 182,500 dollars.