Skip to main content

"Elvis" up for auction

A Roman head apparently known as "Elvis" --- "because of its strong resemblance to the King of rock and roll" --- is due to be auctioned at Bonhams in London this October (Angus Howarth, "All shook up by £1m antiquities auction", The Scotsman July 23, 2008). The head appears to be part of a second century CE sarcophagus.

This piece is part of "a £1 million collection of antiquities which is about to come to auction" and the report is full of superlatives: "one of the world's most stunning private collections of ancient art". There are due to be 150 lots "which once belonged to the Australian collector Graham Geddes". The pieces include "rare Greek and Roman vases and marble reliefs portraying battle scenes".

Bonhams have as yet to provide details of the sale. However, the press release quotes Chantelle Waddingham, Head of Antiquities at Bonhams:
The Graham Geddes Collection represents an enduring passion for the classical past by Australia's foremost collector and dealer. His love for antiquities was sparked in the early 1970's by the inspirational guidance of William Culican and Peter Connor, both lecturers of classical archaeology at the University of Melbourne."
A Graham J. Geddes of Armadale, Victoria is listed as an approved valuer for "Greek and South Italian vases 2,000 BC- 500 AD; Greek and Roman antiquities 2,000 BC- 500 AD" in the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program (list of June 2008; p. 45).

The press release comments a little more about "Elvis":
Fans of the King of Rock 'n Roll, seeing this face from the distant past will be forgiven for thinking that their idol may well have lived a previous life in Rome! Looking at this face with its Elvis-like quiff, strong jaw and nose, one is inevitably led to the thought that the human face for all is diversity and subtlety has after all an ability to repeat itself, hence the shock of the doppelganger, in this case a Roman Elvis.
I am sure Elvis fans will be lining up for this one.

Image from


David Gill said…
For an image of "Elvis" see the Daily Mail.
David Gill said…
I have gathered related stories on a separate post.

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 …

Sardinian warrior from "old Swiss collection"

One of the Sardinian bronzes of a warrior was seized from an as yet unnamed Manahattan gallery. It appears to be the one that passed through the Royal-Athena Gallery: Art of the Ancient World 23 (2012) no. 71. The collecting history for that warrior suggests that it was acquired in 1990 from a private collection in Geneva.

Other clues suggested that the warrior has resided in a New York private collection.

The identity of the private collection in Geneva will no doubt be telling.

The warrior also features in this news story: Jennifer Peltz, "Looted statues, pottery returned to Italy after probe in NYC", ABC News May 25 2017.

Attic amphora handed back to Italians

The research of Dr Christos Tsirogiannis has led to the return of an Attic red-figured amphora, attributed to the Harrow painter, to Italy (Tom Mashberg, "Stolen Etruscan Vessel to Be Returned to Italy", New York Times March 16, 2017).

The amphora is known to have passed through the hands of Swiss-based dealer Gianfranco Becchina in 1993, and then through a New York gallery around 2000 (although its movements between those dates are as yet undisclosed).

During the ceremony, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the District Attorney stated:
“When looters overrun historic sites, mine sacred spaces for prized relics, and peddle stolen property for top dollar, they do so with the implicit endorsement of all those who knowingly trade in stolen antiquities” More research clearly needs to be conducted on how material handled by Becchina passed into the North American market and into the hands of private and public collectors.