CHRISTIE’S ESTABLISHES NEW WORLD AUCTION RECORD FOR AN EGYPTIAN ANTIQUITY AT $2,816,000
Il m'a semblé intéressant de parler et surtout de montrer les images de deux objets qui viennent d'atteindre des records (9 décembre 2005) chez Christies: une statuette de Ka-Nefer datant de la Vème Dynastie et une statue de Nefertari en porteur d'enseigne, la seule connue dans tout l'art Égyptien.
Cette dernière a été acquise par un collectionneur privé, et on n'est surement pas près de la revoir. Pourtant comme dirait le Dr Jones: "Sa place est dans un musée".
Today’s (December 9th 2005) sale of Antiquities at Christie's set a new world auction record for an Egyptian antiquity when a limestone group statue of Ka-Nefer and his family achieved $2,816,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $1,00,000-1,500,000. The statue was bought in the room for the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas by Michael Ward of Ward & Company, New York. This price eclipsed the record set thirty minutes earlier when a splendid and rare Egyptian black granite standard-bearing statue of Queen Nefertari, New Kingdom, Dynasty XIX, Reign of Ramesses II, 1290-1224 B.C. from the Harer Family Trust Collection was sold for $2,256,000. The previous world auction record for an Egyptian antiquity was £883,750 ($1,418,418) for an Egyptian sarcophagus at Christie’s in South Kensington in 2003.
From an American Private Collection, the Egyptian limestone group statue of Ka-nefer and his family, Old Kingdom, Dynasty V, 2465-2323 B.C. was one of the most impressive lots offered in today’s sale of Antiquities.
AN EGYPTIAN LIMESTONE GROUP STATUE OF KA-NEFER AND HIS FAMILY, OLD KINGDOM, DYNASTY V, 2465-2323 B.C
With the tomb owner Ka-nefer seated on a high bench with his back against a support rising to the height of his shoulders, his legs parallel, his arms at his sides, his left hand resting on his thigh, palm down, the right hand grasping a cylindrical object, depicted wearing a kilt with a fan-pleated flap and knotted belt, the lip of cloth pulled up from behind the belt also pleated, his broad collar preserving traces of original black and red pigment, some details gilt, his black wig flaring back exposing the earlobes, with a meticulously-crafted, striated center-parted wig, his oval face with distinctive physiognomy, including large convex eyes, the details painted, the upper lids sculpted in relief beneath slightly-arching subtly-modelled brows, his nose rounded and his full lips pursed into a slight smile, the musculature of his torso and legs well defined, the navel with a vertical groove above, a hieroglyphic inscription on his kilt and by his feet reading, "Overseer of the Craftsmen, Priest of Ptah, Ka-nefer," his wife represented in smaller scale to the right, kneeling with her legs folded to her right, her right arm affectionately embracing Ka-nefer's leg, her left arm at her side, the hand on her thigh, palm down, wearing a long tightly-fitted gown, bracelets, a painted broad collar and a flaring wig similar to her husband's, an inscription on the base before her reading, "His wife, the Royal Confidant, Tjen-tety," their son also represented in smaller scale to the left, standing with his left leg advanced, his left arm affectionately embracing his father's leg, wearing a short curly wig and a kilt, an inscription on the base before him reading, "His son, the Overseer of Craftsmen, Khuwy-ptah" 14 in. (35.5 cm.) high
Provenance : Général Louis André, France. (Général Louis André was born in Nuits-Saint-George in 1838. He served as war minister in the cabinet of René Waldeck-Rousseau and his successor Émile Combes. He died in Dijon in 1913). Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, London, 10-11 July 1989, lot 129. with Robin Symes Ltd, London, 1995.
Lot Notes The name Ka-nefer as Overseer of Craftsmen is known from two offering tables said to be from Saqqara, one now in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen (AEIN 1551) and one now in the British Museum (BM 29207) (see Porter and Moss, Topographical Bibliography of Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphic Texts, Reliefs and Painters, III 2. Memphis, part 2, pp. 768-769). His son Khuwy-ptah was the owner of a mastaba at Saqqara, and several objects, probably from his tomb, bear his name, including a drum and two offering stands (see Porter and Moss, op. cit., p. 689; Murray, Saqqara Mastabas I, pl. 3, no. 3; and Borchardt, Catalogue Général des Antiquités Egyptiennes du Musée du Caire; Denkmäler des Alten Reiches I, pp. 1-2, nos. 1295 & 1297).
Family group tomb sculptures make their appearance during the Fourth Dynasty. For related groups from the Fifth Dynasty, compare the standing figure with his wife and son in the Brooklyn Museum, no. 126 in Arnold, et al., Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids, and the seated figure of Ni-ka-re with his wife and daughter, no. 130 in Arnold, op. cit. According to Cody (in Fazzini, et al., Art for Eternity, Masterworks from Ancient Egypt, Brooklyn Museum of Art), "because scale reflected relative importance in ancient Egyptian art, the father's large size signifies his dominance." The similarity of Ka-nefer's facial features with those of King Sahure and a Nome God on his gneiss statue in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Arnold, op. cit., no. 109) suggests the date for the present work.
AN EGYPTIAN BLACK GRANITE STANDARD-BEARING STATUE OF QUEEN NEFERTARI NEW KINGDOM, DYNASTY XIX, REIGN OF RAMESSES II, 1290-1224 B.C.
Depicted striding forward with her left leg advanced, her arms at her sides, clutching a folded handkerchief in her fisted right hand, supporting a standard in her left, her palm open along the shaft, wearing sandals and an elaborately-pleated garment pulled tight and knotted below her breasts, its diagonal pleats accentuating the sensuous form of her body, bejeweled in a multi-strand broad collar, a bracelet on her right wrist and disk-shaped earrings, her heavy wig with carefully-carved curls overlaid by a vulture headdress, its raised head centered above her forehead, her idealized oval face with large, convex lidded eyes beneath modelled arching brows that merge with her slender nose, the cheekbones pronounced, her lips pursed into a slight smile, the standard terminal a bust of Mut in a striated wig fronted by a uraeus, wearing the Double Crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, the flesh of Mut and Nefertari highly polished in contrast to the wigs and garment, the shaft of the standard inscribed in hieroglyphs reading "The good god, the son of Amen, born of Mut in order to rule all that the sun's disk encircles, the lord of the Two Lands, User-Maat-Ra Setep-en-Ra [Ramesses II]," the back pillar uninscribed 37 in. (94 cm.) high.
Depictions of queens are relatively rare in Egyptian art, and there are far fewer surviving statues of queens than of kings. The present example is unquestionably a masterpiece of Egyptian sculpture. As Scott informs "the differing degrees of surface polish that so strikingly set off the queen's flesh from her attire reflect the ancient sculptor's mastery of form and meticulous attention to detail. This is also evident in the treatment of the elaborately pleated gown which reveals the lithe proportions and graceful motion of the body beneath it, while painstakingly recording the garment's various details.". The identity of the statue's subject cannot be ascertained for certain in the absence of an inscription, which was undoubtedly to be found on the now-missing base. That she was a royal wife of Ramesses II is assured by the surviving inscription on the standard and the vulture headdress over the wig, which was worn by queens beginning no later than the Fifth Dynasty (Fazzini, op. cit., p. 114). Although Ramesses' mother Tuya and daughter Merit-amen are both possibilities, comparison with an image of Nefertari from a group statue of the young Pharaoh and his great royal wife "reveals similarities, notably in the treatment of the eyes, the expression of the mouth, and the presentation of the relationship between the gown and the female form beneath it" (Scott, op. cit., p. 132). Most recent publications confirm the attribution to Nefertari.
The standard-bearer as a sculptural type is almost totally restricted to the New Kingdom. According to Franco "the depictions of the king as such a standard-bearer are relatively common; there are also some statues of private individuals who were honored with the right to take part in the feasts of deities to whom they had a particular devotion. However, this statue of Nefertari seems to be the only three-dimensional work showing a queen in such a role." Further, this "image shows the liturgical role that must have been played by the 'great royal wives' when, alongside the sovereign, they took part in religious ceremonies at the great temples" (Fazzini, op. cit., p. 115). It is well documented that many monuments from the reign of Ramesses II were usurped from earlier rulers, in particular those of Amenhotep III. With statuary, this was accomplished either by rededicating with a new inscription, or by completely reworking the older sculpture. It seems highly likely that the Nefertari standard-bearer was usurped and subsequently reworked, most probably from a depiction of Tiy, Amenhotep's wife, or Sitamen, his daughter. The proportions of the body and details of the face are typical for Amenhotep, such as the wide nose and the faint trace of a vermillion line on the slightly thicker upper lip. The shape of the wig is also typical of Amenhotep's reign, visible in particular on the proper right side where it narrows near the base, forming tight braids. The preserved sandal on the right foot points to the earlier date. Additional evidence supporting this theory comes from the somewhat scratchy nature of the sculpted details for the wig, garment and inscription. When granite is first quarried it retains moisture and so yields more readily to the sculptor's labors, while stone exposed to the sun and dry heat of Egypt becomes somewhat brittle, creating a more scratchy appearance when chiseled.
(Special thanks to Arielle Kozloff for these observations.)
Provenance Said to be from the Temple of Amen at Karnak. Reverend Theodore Pitcairn, Bryn Athyn, PA, acquired in 1922. The Lord's New Church, Huntingdon Valley, PA; Christie's, New York, 14 June 1979, lot 189.