Ariadne specialises in works of art from the ancient world, including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Near Eastern. With prominent galleries on New York’s Upper East Side and in Mayfair, London, they are known for presenting rare and exceptional works with an emphasis on promoting the relevance of ancient art and its aesthetic impact in contemporary contexts.
For further details on the artworks offered for sale by Ariadne in the Eye Viewing Room please make an enquiry below.
Roman Marble Height: 82 cm. Price: £325,000 (plus any applicable taxes)
Dionysos to the Greeks, Bacchus to the Romans, the god of wine and earthly revelry is powerfully represented in this superb marble torso, which captures the idealised beauty of the divine male form. The wine-god represents the wild abandon of merriment and ecstasy brought on by inebriation. He stands here completely at ease, the idealized epitome of relaxation. The composition of this striking depiction is loosely based on a Greek fourth century BC sculpture of Apollo, known as the Apollo Lyceus, by master sculptor, Praxiteles. Often reimagined as Dionysos in the Roman period, the god’s right arm was originally raised and resting on his head. He would have been leaning on a support to his left, and may have clutched a bunch of grapes in his left hand. This Roman period interpretation follows in the footsteps of the Greek original in its sensuous carving, exuding the relaxed and jovial aura appropriate for the immortal who inspired wild and uninhibited celebration. It is a rare and masterful portrayal of a Greek archetype remarkably interpreted by a Roman master sculptor.
Further Literature: ‘Catalogue of Greek and Roman Sculpture’ Cambridge, 1964. D. Kleiner, ‘Roman Sculpture’, New Haven, 1992. C. Vermeule, ‘Greek and Roman Sculpture in America’, Berkeley, LA, 1981.
Provenance: Private Collection, Europe, acquired in 1979. Anon. sale; Christie’s, New York, 9 Dec. 2008, lot 160. Private Collection, USA, 2014-2016.
Condition: Detached from original support at old break on proper left thigh, with area of toning in at the point of detachment. Light cleaning overall. Encrustations particularly to reverse and minor chips and abrasions throughout.
Head of a Muse, Roman circa third century AD Marble Height: 21 cm. Price: £135,000 (plus any applicable taxes)
‘Happy is he whom the muses love’ - Hesiod, ‘Theogony’, line 63.
This captivating marble head emanates all of the hallmarks of Roman third century female representations. While her features exhibit the idealism of deities and their retinue, the overall character is one of hyper-realism, so present in the portraiture of the period. The smooth, soft curve of her brows contrasts poignantly with the tired heaviness of her dreamy, luminous eyes. Her thick bow lips echo those of the empress Julia Domna, whose late second century style was the primary model for the next several generations of Roman imperial portraiture.
The subject wears the traditional hairstyle of Greek goddesses, with thick wavy locks parted at the centre and cascading in graduated thickness towards her ears. Yet, her skyward gaze is steeped in humanness – bulging, leaden and communicative. Such features suggest this is a representation of one of the Muses, originally the goddesses of song, dance, and poetic inspiration. Later, they came to represent guardians of the arts and sciences in all their forms, with each muse assigned a specific sphere: Calliope (Epic poetry), Clio (history), Erato (love poetry), Euterpe (lyric poetry), Melpomene (tragedy), Polyhymnia (religious poetry), Terpsichore (choral song and dance), Thalia (Comedy), and Urania (astronomy). Beautiful and generous, the muses embody man’s love for literature, learning, and creativity, with the ability to make man forget his sorrows and breath inspiration into the soul.
The scale of this head, in combination with the remains of a strut to the chignon and the seemingly unfinished aspect of her proper right side, indicates that this head was originally a sculpture in high relief. During this period, exceptionally large sarcophagi often displayed large-scale figures along their length. Similarities can also be seen between the present head and a sarcophagus fragment now in the Getty Villa, which depicts the muses standing along the front panel.
Once fashioned on a sarcophagus of such importance, the intricacies of the carving of the present head would have been particularly effective as it was hauntingly illuminated by candle light. The flickering of light would have interplayed with her deeply-drilled locks and her expressively carved pupils, bringing her to life. Now removed from its narrative, this mysterious visage continues to entice the viewer in her stoic silence.
Provenance: Nicolas Koutoulakis (1910-1996), Paris and Geneva; and thence by descent.
Condition: Intact as preserved; no repairs or restorations. Some damage to the nose and abrasions over the proper right side of the face and hair. Hard grey encrustation with inclusions, in particular over the proper left side. Lightly cleaned overall to remove heavier encrustations
Torso from a Cycladic Figure, Greek Late Spedos Type, Keros-Syros Culture, Early Cycladic II, circa 2600-2500 BC Marble 12 cm. (H) x 9.5 cm. (W) Price: £45,000 (plus any applicable taxes)
This robust fragment, embodying simply the torso and iconic ‘folded arm’ pose of the subject, presents a tantalizing glimpse of the celebrated abstract sculpture of the Cycladic islands. In its fractured form, it is rendered all the more enigmatic, as mysterious as the culture that created it more than four-and-a-half thousand years ago.
The appeal of Cycladic sculpture to the modern eye lies not just in its understated minimalism, but also in the inherent beauty of the medium; carved from the finely crystalline, native island marble, which even in antiquity was famed for its superb quality. The present torso would have originally formed part of a full female figure, depicted nude and reclining. The exact function of these figures within Cycladic culture continues to elude scholars. However, the frequency of examples found in graves and sanctuary contexts suggests a ritual association. Many fragments from a sanctuary on the island of Keros were ceremonially broken, a fact which can account for the preservation of fragments such as the present, rather than complete figures. That the majority of examples depict nude females, often with their arms crossed over the abdomen, also indicates a connection with ideas of fertility and regeneration.
Symbolically, the preserved portion of the present piece represents perhaps the most important part of the Cycladic figure, since the folded-arm pose is considered not just a preference of design, but as a protective embrace across the belly and the new life imagined within. Eminently appealing in its raw simplicity, this piece draws in the viewer’s gaze to the very core of the body, the ancient seat of human emotion.
Further Literature: J. Thimme, ‘Art and Culture of the Cyclades in the Third Millennium BC’, Chicago and London, 1977. P. Getz-Preziosi, ‘Sculptors of the Cyclades: individual and tradition in the third millennium BC’, Ann Arbor, 1987.
Provenance: Private collection, Massachusetts, acquired at auction, mid-1980s. Private collection, Massachusetts & Florida. Art market, Florida. Private collection, acquired from the above, 2018.
Condition: Intact as preserved; no repairs or restorations. Chip to proper right upper arm and minor chipping throughout.
Head of a God, Greek circa mid fifth century BC Marble Height: 22.8 cm. Price: £75,000 (plus any applicable taxes)
This strong marble head of a bearded god epitomizes the ethos of the Severe Style of Greek art. This transitional period of the early fifth century BC is characterized by a new simplicity and heaviness of spirit in the wake of a breakdown of the canonical forms of the Archaic period. It is so-named ‘Severe’ for the more serious facial expressions and temperament evident in its representative works. This innovation evoked emotions, fine detailing, and more individualistic interpretations. The present example is one such depiction. It portrays a deity, most certainly either Poseidon or Zeus, as evidenced by his long stately beard and downturned moustache. Like the celebrated Artemision bronze, which typifies the Severe Style, this marble figure of a deity would have been identified by his attributes. If he was shown with a trident, it would clearly be Poseidon, the god of the seas; and if with a lightning bolt, it would be Zeus, the king of all Olympian gods. In this small yet powerful head, the god is portrayed with long centre-parted wavy tresses that are rolled back and bound in a band. His expressive eyes are rendered with heavy lids and are set deeply between his overhanging brow and prominent cheek bones. With a robust grandeur that goes beyond its scale, this petite head typifies a movement that cannot be overstated for its impact on western civilization; a movement whereby the individual becomes the centerpiece of all humanity; a movement during which distinct and individual expressions are first sculpted in marble and bronze.
Further Literature: J-L Zimmerman, Collection de la Fondation Thétis: Développement de l’art grec de la préhistoire à Rome, Geneva, 1987, no. 117.
Provenance: Thétis Foundation, Geneva. Their sale; Sotheby’s, New York, 17 Dec. 1998, lot 107. Collection of Dr. Heinrich Medicus, Troy, New York.
Condition: Intact as preserved
Red-Figure Lekythos, Attic Attributed to the Achilles Painter, circa 450 BC Terracotta Height 38.4 cm. Price: £85,000 (plus any applicable taxes)
This elegant, long and slender-bodied vessel with a tall neck and thick-rimmed mouth is known as a lekythos; it functioned in the ancient Greek world as a container for oil. Particularly during the height of Greek vase painting, in the fifth century BC, the narrow field for figurative decor on these slender vessels presented a compositional challenge and opportunity for some of the most accomplished vase painters in Athens. It was the perfect canvas for the simple yet sophisticated two-figure compositions so characteristic of the celebrated artist known today as the Achilles Painter.
The Achilles Painter flourished chiefly in the mid fifth century BC, when he excelled especially in the red-figure and white-ground techniques, both of which emphasised his exceptional draughtsmanship. The Achilles Painter was the most famous student of the renowned Berlin Painter, and his penchant for refined minimalism derived from his master.
The present example showcases the Achilles Painter’s fondness for scenes composed of two female figures, which are found most often in his white-ground ‘lekythoi’. These scenes have been categorised by scholars as ‘a mistress and her maid’, and have variously been considered to represent wedding preparations, funerary rites, or simply occurrences of everyday life. Perhaps these subjects related to the uses and functions of lekythoi amongst women and their toilette. Here, the two women stand on either side of a ‘kalathos’, or basket, and gesture toward each other. The figure to the left holds a distaff, an implement used for spinning wool. Therefore, one can surmise that wool is being collected in the basket between them.
The scene is bordered above by bands of stopt meander that face alternately left and right and are divided by saltire squares – a pattern known as ULFA, for ‘upper, lower, facing alternately’. This scheme was a tradition that originated from the workshop of the Berlin Painter and was favoured by many of his pupils. A band with a simple Greek key pattern borders below. Graceful palmettes and scrolling tendrils encompass the concave shoulders, with tongues at the base of the neck.
Exemplifying the great achievements of the Achilles Painter in the most prolific middle phase of his career, this lekythos ties together his grandiose artistic pursuits, by employing in the red-figured technique a subject normally reserved for his white-ground compositions. The true epitome of the Classical vase painter, the Achilles Painter has taken the highly esteemed tradition of his great teacher with the utmost delicate skill, and has moulded it with a commonplace subject-matter on to a utilitarian vessel, bringing magnificence into the everyday.
Provenance: Private Collection of N. Zoullas, New York, acquired 1988 or prior.
Condition: Foot reattached, otherwise intact. Some minor chips to black slip.