Roman marble torso sculpture will attract $1.9m at Christie's

Christie's Antiquities sale will be highlighted by a Roman marble sculpture of an athlete's torso on October 24 in London.

Roman marble torso sculpture
The torso is a copy of a now-lost 5th century BC Greek original

The torso is a fine example dating to the 1st-2nd century AD. It is expected to lead bids in the sale, valued at £800,000-1.2m ($1.2m-1.9m).

During the early stages of the empire, the Romans developed a passion for the arts and culture of their predecessors and neighbours, the Greeks. This is especially reflected in the sculpture of the time, with the Roman artists imitating the renowned skills of the Greek sculptures.

This imitation is demonstrated in the current work, which is a copy of the lost 5th century BC Greek bronze original.

"They were introduced to Greek art... by the abundant display of plundered Greek masterworks in Roman triumphal processions. After the supply of originals dwindled, whole schools of copyists began turning out near replicas and new variations to fulfil the demands of a seemingly insatiable Roman audience", explained DEE Kleiner in the 1992 book Roman Sculpture.  

At some point, the sculpture would have poured oil from a vessel into a bowl held across his abdomen.

Cycladic figure statue
Only around 40 of the 1,400 figures found from the Cycladic culture are of known origin, as many were taken by looters from grave sites during the early 20th century

Also starring in the sale is a marble reclining figure from the Cycladic civilisation, an early Greek Bronze Age culture.

Dating to circa 2,600-2,500 BC, the figure is of the early Spedos variety and would originally have been painted in black, red and blue pigment, though this example retains just a ghost of its former decoration. It is expected to sell for £120,000-180,000 ($193,920-290,880).

A Roman marble bust of Gaius Caesar will lead Bonhams' Antiquities auction on October 23. However, the sale has come under fire from Egyptian authorities, who have questioned the legitimacy of some of the items.

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