Skip to main content

Egyptian Antiquities at Sotheby's

I have been plotting the sale of Egyptian antiquities at Sotheby's New York (see comments on December 2007). The June sale of antiquities raised some US$8,933,001 of which US$3,118,125 was for Egyptian items. This represents some 35% of the total value of the sale, and well above the average (15%) for the period from 1998. Egyptian antiquities fetched US$34 million for the same period (out of an overall total of US$225 million). Of these, over 65% first appear to be recorded after 1973, and just over 95% have no recorded find-spot.

The high prices on the non-Egyptian side included:
  • lot 13: Cycladic male figure: US$1,314,500
  • lot 28: Hellenistic bronze goddess: US$602,500
  • lot 32: marble head of Serapis Ammon: US$182,500
  • lot 38: chalcedony head of deified queen: US$962,500
  • lot 39: Late Republican marble portrait: US$374,500
  • lot 45: marble head of horse: US$110,500
  • lot 69: Bactrian bronze cosemtic vessel: US$116,500
  • lot 171: Byzantine mosaic fragment: US$170,500


Larry Rothfield said…
Fascinating data. But can you give us the n's for # of sales each year, and the median and mean prices? Otherwise it is difficult to tell whether we are seeing a shift in demand where prices are broadly higher, or whether the increase in total value is driven by the entry into the market of one or two major collectors. As you note, it only takes one Guennol lioness to skew things.

Am I right in concluding that the average revenue per annum from Sotheby New York antiquities sales 1998-2008 is $22.5 million?
Larry Rothfield said…
Great to have these statistics available!

It is a little hard to know what to make of the figures, though, without a better sense of: a) the n (how many pieces were sold); b) the median and mean. One question is whether changes year by year are being driven by a very small number of hugely expensive purchases, or whether there has been an increase at all pricing levels. The former might well indicate anxiety on the part of major collectors about prosecution or restitution claims, leading to bidding up the prices of well-provenanced pieces. Is there a correlation between how well-provenanced artifacts are and the prices they command? Do the 5% that have a recorded find spot generate more revenue per piece?
David Gill said…
A more detailed study will follow. The combined average annual income from the sale of antiquities at Sotheby's and Christie's (NY) is around US$ 27.6 million (taking the figures for 1999-2008). The annual average for Sotheby's (NY) for the period 1998-2008 (i.e. 11 years) is US $15.3 million.
Such figures are essentially for Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Near Eastern and Arabian antiquities.
Best wishes

Popular posts from this blog

Marble bull's head from the temple of Eshmun

Excavations at the temple of Eshmun in Lebanon recovered a marble bull's head. It is now suggested that it was this head, apparently first published in 1967, that was placed on loan to New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (Tom Mashberg, "Met Museum Turns Over Another Relic With Disputed Past to Prosecutors", New York Times August 1, 2017 ). The head is reported to have been handed over to the Manhattan district attorney after a request was received from the Lebanese authorities.

It is suggested that the head may have been looted from an archaeological storage area at Byblos in the 1980s during the Lebanese civil war. Mashberg has rehearsed the recent collecting history:
The owners of the bull’s head, Lynda and William Beierwaltes of Colorado, say they have clear title to the item and have sued Manhattan prosecutors for its return.  The Beierwaltes bought the head from a dealer in London in 1996 for more than $1 million and then sold it to another collector, Michael …

Mithras relief from Tor Cervara

A fragmentary relief of Mithras was discovered in 1964 at Tor Cervara on the outskirts of Rome. It was acquired by the Museo Nazionale Romano.

A further fragment of the relief was acquired by the Badisches Landesmueum in Kalrsruhe in 1976. The source was an unstated Swiss dealer. This fragment has been reunited with the rest of the relief [press release].

Today a further fragment of the relief was reunited with the other pieces. This had been recovered during a raid in Sardinia.

The Toledo skyphos and a Swiss private collection

The Attic red-figured skyphos attributed to the Kleophon painter in the Toledo Museum of Art (inv. 1982.88) is now coming under further scrutiny following the research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis. The skyphos shows Hephaistos returning to Olympos.

Tsirogiannis has identified what appears to be this skyphos in five photographs in the Medici Dossier. The museum acknowledged that the skyphos had resided in a 'private Swiss collection'. Tsirogiannis suggests that this is probably a reference to Medici.

Enquiries to the museum by Tsirogiannis elicited the information that the skyphos had been acquired from Nicholas Koutoulakis (although that information does not appear on the museum's online catalogue).

The curatorial team at the Toledo Museum of Art will, no doubt, be contacting the Italian authorities to discuss the future residence of the skyphos.

For further discussion of the Toledo Museum of Art on LM see here.

Tsirogiannis, C. 2017. "Nekyia: Museum ethics an…