Wednesday, April 24, 2019


THE famous Marlborough Antinous gem, estimated to be worth half a million dollars, will go under the hammer at Christie's in New York on April 29th.

The "Roman Black Chalcedony Intaglio Portrait of Antinous" is the showcase piece of the upcoming auction, "Masterpieces in Miniature: Ancient Engraved Gems formerly in the G. Sangiorgi Collection." 

The pre-auction estimate of this portrait is $300,000-$500,000 and it will be featured in lot 37 at the auction.

Here is how the auction house describes this incredible gem:

"Superbly engraved on this unusually large black chalcedony gem is a portrait bust of Antinous ....

"Traditionally identified as depicting him in the guise of a hunter, Antinous wears a chlamys over his shoulders pinned in place by a circular fibula and carries a spear. 

"His idealized facial features display a rounded chin, full lips, and thick hair arranged in luscious curls that cover his ears and fall along his neck. 

"Stylistically, this gem is exactly that of his main portrait types in marble. 

"The extraordinary quality of the engraving has led many to proclaim this the finest surviving portrait of Antinous in existence in any medium. 

"Some of the missing portions of his bust were restored during the Renaissance in gold. Behind his shoulders three letters are preserved, ANT […], plus a portion of a fourth letter and possibly parts of the others, the inscription either identifying the subject or perhaps an artist’s signature," states the auction house.

The present artwork was made circa 130-138 AD. It has been owned by Count Antonio Maria Zanetti (1679-1767), Venice, acquired by 1740; George Spencer, 4th Duke of Marlborough (1739-1817), Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire, acquired from the above by 1767; thence by descent to his son, George Spencer-Churchill, 5th Duke of Marlborough (1766-1840), Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire; thence by descent to his son, George Spencer-Churchill, 6th Duke of Marlborough (1793–1857), Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire; thence by descent to his son, John Winston Spencer-Churchill, 7th Duke of Marlborough (1822-1883), Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Thereafter, it went to David Bromilow (1809-1898), Bitteswell Hall, Leicestershire; Francis E. Whelan (1848-1907), London; Charles Newton-Robinson (1853-1913), London; Giorgio Sangiorgi (1886-1965), Rome and subsequently passed on to the present owners.

"The Marlborough Antinous is one of the most famous gems to survive from antiquity and has a long list of owners since its rediscovery in the Renaissance," says Christie's.

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