Saturday, December 13, 2008


This Egyptian figure in greywacke wood of a kneeling man dating from around 600–342 B.C. measuring 35 cm. in height was sold in December 2008 by Sotheby's NYC for the astounding sum of $1.65 million vs. a higher estimate of $600,000.

According to press reports, the buyer was from Qatar and some think that the real owner will be Sheikh
Saud Al-Thani who is very fond of Egyptian antiquities.

Its provenance was very prestigious too : Henry Salt (1780-1827) collected in Egypt between 1824 and he said to have found the figure in the Temple of Bubastes, Lower Egypt. Then Sir Charles John Greville (1785-1836), Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, acquired it and the figure stayed in the Collections of the Earls of Warwick until this date.

It is doubtful however than the final owner is the Sheikh Saud Al Thani who burst onto the antiquities market in the late 1990s. He was buying Islamic, Egyptian and Roman antiquities for himself, but was also acting as president of Qatar’s National Council for Culture, Arts and the Heritage (NCCAH) to acquire material intended to furnish a new museum complex which would make Qatar the cultural capital of the Gulf .

Among his record-breaking antiquities purchases were the so-called Jenkins Venus, a second-century AD Roman statue bought at Christie’s London in June 2002 for £7.9 million, and the third-century AD Roman “cage cup”, bought for £2.3 million at the Sotheby’s London November 1997 sale of the British Rail Pension Fund’s collection of ancient glass.

In April 2005 the buying came to an end when Sheikh Saud was placed under house arrest in Qatar under suspicion of misusing public funds. He was replaced as president of the NCCAH by Mohammed Abdulraheem Kafoud .

The greywacke figure had been sold in Sotheby’s first-ever antiquities auction in 1835, for £60. At its one-session sale on Wednesday 10 December, 101 of 122 well-selected lots found buyers, all in all, the sale earned $8.9 million on an estimate of $4–6.9 million. It was in the current conditions of the Art market a very good night for Sotheby's of whom a director concluded that "nothing changed on the market, people want high quality stuff and good provenance."

(German grauwacke, signifying a grey, earthy rock) is a variety of sandstone generally characterized by its hardness, dark color, and poorly-sorted, angular grains of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments set in a compact, clay-fine matrix. It is a texturally-immature sedimentary rock generally found in Palaeozoic strata. The larger grains can be sand-to-gravel-sized, and matrix materials generally constitute more than 15% of the rock by volume.

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