Archive | October, 2011

Ancient Roman eagles, and eagles with snakes.

Image from the official website for Pompeii and Naples When attempting to find out the date of an object, one wants to find parallels, and from them you can deduce or support a dating for a piece. In my research I did not find the exact parallels I wanted but I did find a few other examples of sculptures featuring an eagle with a serpent. The photo above is of a fountain found at the House of the Faun in Pompeii. Here the eagle stands with his wings raised up but not fully outstretched. You can see a snake next to the eagle, sheltered in its raised wing as the eagle looks over at it. It is almost loving the way the eagle seems to have this snake protected under its wing as he looks back at it tenderly. The snake, whose head is missing, is coiled and almost standing on the coils. It is almost menacing, so one wonders what exactly is depicted; was the intent of the sculpture to show an eagle surprised […]

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The eagle; what species is it?

The eagle against black One thing struck me in particular about the eagle, the fur-like treatment of the feathers on the neck and body of the eagle. It resembles the pelt of a bear or the mane of a lion more than the feathers of a bird. I recalled seeing such treatment of the f Roman sculptures of eagles, but was finding very few examples in my books or online. I have a pretty good visual memory, so if I think I saw it, I am sure I did, it is just a matter of finding it again. Strangely, once I started looking for Roman representations of eagles, I found very few. While we strongly associate the eagle with Imperial Rome, when looking for representations of eagles at the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, I found hardly any. In Rome I believe there are more, but I can find few illustrated in my books. I will have to make a trip to Europe to […]

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The Eagle cleaned and examined

Above is a screen grab from Christie’s website showing the eagle with the shiny black patina it had when I first saw it and bought it.  photo by Telyfoto Inc. Above is the eagle as it now looks, after I cleaned it. I experimented with different solvents, and it was turpentine that worked to dissolve and remove the black. Amazingly, under it was a green patina, which looks like what you would see on an ancient Roman bronze. If this bronze was really 17th Century, under the black would have been bare metal. Patina is misleading when it comes to Renaissance bronzes as generally a patina is a reaction of a surface to its environment.  In the Renaissance they often applied layers of shellac and varnish with colors to achieve a satiny look to the surface.  And then other times they would apply chemicals to alter the surface inducing a chemical patina to imitate that on ancient bronzes.  But they would not have put black on top of a green patina, what would the point […]

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Discovery: Bronze Eagle with Serpent

Saturday, October 8, 2011 Dear Reader, I am going to tell another story of making of a discovery, and the effort to confirm it.  I am generally reticent to disclose where I buy things, but in this case I am going to relate the entire experience of discovery and research as I attempt to prove my case.  By sharing this with you, I hope to give the reader a sense of what goes on behind the scenes with art dealers.  The story will also illustrate a problem that both benefits and works against me – the blindness and superficiality of many of the experts in the field of ancient art.  What I mean by this will become clearer as I tell the tale. In June of last year I went to New York to preview the antiquity auctions, and while at Christie’s noticed a sign for a Decorative arts sale that included property from the collection of Michael Hall.  Michael is someone I have known well for many years.  He is a prominent, if controversial, […]

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