Copper in the Arts

June 2007

Sotheby's Sets New World Record for Bronze Sculpture at Auction: Artemis and the Stag Fetches $28.6 Million

Artemis sculpture Bronze figure of Artemis and the Stag

Photograph courtesy of Sotheby's

On June 7 at Sotheby's in New York City, in a hushed and standing-room only salesroom, auction history was made when an exquisite bronze figure of Artemis and the Stag, circa 1st Century B.C./1st Century A.D., sold for $28,600,000, immediately becoming the most expensive sculpture ever sold at auction.

"She deserved it!" said Richard M. Keresey, Worldwide Director of Sotheby's Antiquities Department.

That outstanding price also eclipsed the previous record for an Antiquity at auction and quadrupled the pre-sale high estimate of $7 million. When auctioneer Hugh Hildesley opened the bidding at $4.1 million, two bidders immediately began battling for the masterpiece. It appeared that the sculpture was going to sell for just over $12 million when a new bidder, seated in the rear of the salesroom, entered the contest. The bidding continued for a total of more than 10 minutes, in $100,000 increments, before the masterpiece was sold to Giuseppe Eskenazi, the premiere connoisseur of Chinese Art, who was bidding on behalf of a private European collector. The rare bronze, which had been consigned by the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, was included in a sale of Antiquities which brought a total of $47,194,020 (est. $8.3/12.1 million), the highest total ever for an Antiquities sale.

"Artemis is certainly the greatest work of art that I have ever sold," commented Keresey. "But, she is also much more than that. She is among the most beautiful works of art surviving from antiquity."

Following the auction, Eskenazi commented, "This is certainly one of the finest, if not the finest, bronze or any sculpture that I have seen in my 50-year career. "On the world scale, it is certainly at the top. It is the height of bronze casting; it is of the highest quality, and it is exceptionally refined. It is comparable to any other sculpture of this size and quality in any museum or any private collection anywhere. I am very proud to be associated with it."

Among the very finest large classical bronze sculptures and the most splendid to appear on the market in memory, the rare bronze figure of Artemis and the Stag is remarkable for its beauty, size, excellent state of preservation, and most notably, its dramatic capture of the split-second moment when the Greek goddess of the hunt has just let fly her arrow. The elegant sculptural group features Artemis standing on a quadrangular base with a stag to her left. Wearing elaborately laced sandals and short chiton with drapery billowing at the sides, the goddess' extended left hand would have held a bow that is now missing. The exquisite detail of this work is apparent in her face: silver-overlaid eyes, incised irises, recessed pupils and her ears pierced for earrings.

Resources:

Sotheby's, 1334 York Avenue at 72nd St., New York, (212) 606-7000

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