Roman marble torso statue achieves $1.5m in Christie's antiquities

A Roman statue of the torso of an athlete has sold as top lot in Christie's Antiquities auction in London.

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

The torso was previously part of the collection of Yves Saint-Laurent and is a magnificent example of Roman marble sculpture.

Created circa the 1st-2nd century AD, it sold for £962,500 ($1.5m), comfortably meeting its £800,000-1.2m estimate at the October 24 sale.

The piece is a Roman copy of a lost 5th century BC Greek bronze original. Imitations of this kind are common, as the Romans had developed a love of Greek art and culture by the early imperial period.

The limbs have long been removed from the sculpture, but it would have been positioned with its right arm raised, pouring oil from a vessel into a bowl held at its abdomen.

Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge were renowned collectors of art and antiquities, with the 2009 sale of their collection realising $515.8m at Christie's - the highest total single-owner auction in history.

Cycladic figure statue
The Cycladic culture spans from approximately 3,000-2,000 BC

Also featuring in the present sale was a reclining female figure from the Cycladic culture, an early civilisation in Bronze Age Greece. With the Cycladic culture known for its female idols, the piece sold for £218,500 ($353,970), making a 21.3% increase on its £180,000 high estimate.

Many of the female idols were stolen to sate the demands of the antiquities market in the early 20th century. As such, only 40% of the 1,400 examples ever discovered are of known provenance.

The sale follows Bonhams' own auction of antiquities in London, which saw a bust of Gaius Caesar up 148% on estimate.

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