The sculpture may be old or could be a replica
Q: I own property in Gainesville and hope to retire there one day, but I currently work in Silicon Valley, California. A friend from Gainesville suggested I write to you.
I am looking for an expert in Egyptian sculpture, 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom. Do you have anyone in your Rolodex who could give a top notch opinion on a sculpt I have? The piece was purchased at a high-end estate sale. I know the real estate broker from having purchased many items from him over the years. She told me that the previous owner was a doctor who traveled quite a lot and received gifts in exchange for his services. Atherton’s house sold for $12.5 million and they had a week to get it all out. There was a small free grand piano for anyone who could move it in two days, for example. I still paid more than I normally would for such things and paid sales tax etc.
I also contacted the Egyptian Embassy just to be absolutely certain that this room wasn’t looted eons ago, which is always a risk with this sort of thing. The Embassy is slow to respond and will likely take weeks or even months. In the meantime, I am anxious to know whether this, see attached, is likely to be ancient or not.
What made me think it was special at first was the quality. The pictures don’t do it justice. It’s amazing. Second, the cartouche of Seti I on the obverse is not common. There is a similar cartouche on a statue in the MET. I know it’s a bit obscure because of an article explaining this.
Finally, the base of the neck is covered with lead. This head seems to come from a herme and a small chip on the back of the skull, the size of a penny, may be a witness to any event separating this head from the rest of the sculpture. Pure speculation…we engineers like to do that. The lead was poured over the neck apparently to keep it flat as shown. Any advice or help is greatly appreciated. — OR, Internet
A: It is not uncommon for quality reproductions and replicas of ancient and famous figures from past eras to be found in the fabulous estates of wealthy world travelers. I suspect you bought the bust speculating that it might be worth more than the price you paid, which often ends in wishful thinking. When it comes to authenticity, major national and international auction houses that have specialized antiques departments will have experts able to tell the difference between genuine and later replicas, reproductions, forgeries, etc.
I suggest you approach finding your bust from the position of selling it. The auction house will probably be able, after viewing your photographs, to form a superficial opinion of its authenticity. If it looks good to them, they will suggest a price it might sell for based on whether you need to physically examine it. The decision to sell is yours; this will at least give you an opinion on the authenticity. I suggest you contact Heritage Auctions in Dallas and speak with the antiquities department. The phone number is 877-heritage. The website is ha.com. Good luck, and let us know what you find out.
— John Sikorski, with over 35 years of experience, is an Ocala-based antiques advisor, consultant and broker. Send your questions to Sikorski’s Attic, c/o The Ocala Star-Banner, 2121 SW 19th Ave. Road, Ocala, FL 34471-7752, or email [email protected]