The Guennol Lioness
Artemis and the stag (photo courtesy of Sotheby's)
A Marble Portrait of Antinous being auctioned at Sotheby's New York
Goddess (possibly Aphrodite) - previoulsy in the Getty Museum
Fresh Money for Old Stones: The Most Expensive Antiquities ever sold
by G. Fernández - theartwolf.com
Updated December 2011
The art market for Antiquities is by far the most intriguing and unknown section of the art market. In fact, it is sometimes the perfect place for criminals, smugglers and looters, who operate in almost any country with a rich heritage. Perhaps the most famous and illustrating example is the so-called "Persian Mummy", the mummy of an alleged Persian princess that surfaced in Pakistan in late 2000. The mummy had been put up for sale in the black antiquities market for an asking price of more than $15 million, but, one year later, an in-depth analysis of the corpse concluded that the Persian "Princess" was in fact a modern woman of about 21 who had died maybe two years previously, possibly killed with a blunt instrument.
But all these scandals have not stopped the rise of the prices for top-quality antiquities, pieces that can be as sought-after as a Picasso or a Monet, for example. Well-preserved, good-provenance artworks can easily fetch up to $10 million or more in auction houses like Christie's or Sotheby's, or in Art fairs like the TEFAF in Maastricht.
Here is a list of the top 10 most expensive antiquities ever sold, the one and only list of its kind in Internet. theArtWolf will be ready to update it if new acquisitions come to light. And remember that you can also help us to create a more complete list if you see any error or omission. Then, please contact us.
1 - The Guennol Lioness
Limestone, c.3000 b.c.
$57,200,000 - Sotheby's NY, December 5th 2007. Buyer: Private British collector. Seller: Alastair Bradley Martin Fund.
2 - Artemis and the stag
Bronze, circa 1 st Century B.C./ 1 st Century A.D
$28,600,000 - Sotheby's NY, June 7 th 2007. Buyer: Giuseppe Eskenazi. Seller: Al bright Knox Art Gallery
3 - Roman bust of Antinous
Marble, circa 130-138 a.c.
$23,826,500 - Sotheby's NY, December 8th 2010. Buyer: Unknown. Seller: Estate of Clarence Day
4 - Marble Group of Leda and the Swan
Marble, circa 2nd Century a.c.
$19,122,500 - Sotheby's NY, December 8th 2011. Buyer: Unknown. Seller: Marques of Zetland
5 - Statue of Aphrodite
South Italy , c.400 b.c.
$18,000,000 - Private sale, 1988. Buyer: The Getty Museum . Seller: Private collection
6 - Cycladic reclining female figure
name-piece of the Schuster Master
Cycladic II, c.2400 b.c
$16,882,500 - Christie's's NY, December 9th 2010. Buyer: Unknown. Seller: New York private collector
7 - Bronze figure of a tapir
Chinese, Warring States , 4th century b.c.
$12,000,000 - Private sale, TEFAF Maastricht 2007. Buyer: Chinese private collector. Seller: Littleton & Hennessy Asian Art
8 - The Jenkins Venus (The Barberini Venus)
Bronze, c.1 st -2 nd century a.c.
$11,700,000 (BP7.95 million) - Christie's London , July 2002. Buyer: Anonymous. Seller: Richard Compton
9 - The Canford Assyrian relief
Assyrian, 883-859 b.c.
$11,300,000 (BP7.7 million) - Christie's London , July 6 th 1994. Buyer: The Miho Museum . Seller: The Canford Manor
10 - Ivory face of Apollo
Greek, attributed to Phidias or his circle
$10,000,000 - Private sale, 1996. Buyer: Nino Savoca. Seller: Pietro Casasanta. The piece was found to have been looted from Italy
Chinese, Archaic, Early Zhou Dynasty, 11th to 10th Century B.C.
$9,240,000 - Christie's NY, March 21st 2001. Buyer: Anonymous. Seller: Muneichi Nita
Wine vessel and cover
Chinese, Archaic, Late Shang Dynasty, 13th to 11th Century B.C.
$8,104,000 - Sotheby's NY, March 19th 2007. Buyer: Robert Keverne. Seller: The Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Kouros - statue of a youth
Greek, c.530 b.c.
$7,000,000 (some sources say $9 million) - Private sale, 1986. Buyer: The Getty Museum . Seller: Gianfranco Becchina. Some experts consider this piece to be a modern fake
The Apollo Sauroktonos
attributed to Praxiteles, 4 th century b.c.
$5,000,000 (estimated, some sources say $6 million) - Private sale, 2004. Buyer: The Cleveland Museum of Art. Seller: Phoenix Ancient Art, Geneva