Heading for the top:  Roman Emperor's $160,000 bust rules at Christie's

The upcoming Christie's auction of pieces from the collection of Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres will be of great interest to collectors and alternative investors with an interest in Roman and Greek art and sculpture.  The auction, to be held in Paris, takes place over two days from February 16, and consists of 421 fascinating lots.

The top lot is a remarkable highlight dating from the 1st Century AD, namely a wonderfully preserved bust of an adolescent Emperor Nero.  Carved from marble and measuring 33cm in height, the bust was supposedly created sometime between 54 and 68 AD.  Nero was widely considered a tyrannical and brutal leader - he executed his mother and was known as an early persecutor of Christians.

The stunning bust, preserved from an era that has fascinated every generation since, is estimated to sell for $109,146-163,719.  Its rarity and historical significance would certainly make it an excellent addition to any collection of sculpture of ancient Roman art.


A marble bust of the Roman Emperor Nero

Also included in the auction is a beautiful Greek Red-Figured Amphora vase, dating from the late 5th to early 4th Century BC.  This exquisite relic is in splendid condition; measuring 44.5cm in height, the vase features rope-twist handles and a bold pattern around the neck.  Collectors or investors should be willing to pay $68,216-95,503 for this unique example of ancient pottery.

The sale features a wonderful Amphora vase from the same era - circa 530 BC.  The striking piece displays an ornate illustration on each side.  The first features a bearded Dionysus holding a rhyton and wearing a wreath of ivy, his head turned toward Leto, Apollo and Hermes.  The second shows a battle scene, with several armoured warriors fighting to the death.  Again, the estimate underlines its importance - $54,573-81,860.

A final piece worth noting is another bust, this time of Egyptian origin.  As we pointed out last week, Egyptian art is incredibly popular and makes a fantastic investment.  The marble relief of a man dates from the Plotemaic period of the late 3rd Century BC, and has been estimated to sell for $54,573-81,860.

Such pieces are excellent investments, not only because of their artistic merit but because of their historic derivation.  Roman, Greek and Egyptian art can attract large prices - like this sculpture - but others are more affordable and would be better for entry-level investors, like this Roman coin.

Overall, ancient artefacts are very popular with collectors - and acquiring them is a great way to memorialise the history of human civilisation as well as profit.


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