NEW YORK—A bronze figure of the Greek hunter-goddess, Artemis and the Stag, circa first century B.C./first century A.D., brought $28.6 million at Sotheby’s on June 7, a record for a sculpture at auction. The price accounted for more than half of Sotheby’s $47.2 million sale of antiquities and eclipsed the previous record for an antiquity at auction—£7.9 million ($11.9 million), given at Christie’s for the Jenkins Venus, the ancient goddess of love, nature and fertility, in June 2002, as well as the $27.5 million paid for Constantin Brancusi’s Bird in Space, the previous record for any sculpture that was set at Christie’s New York two years ago.
London dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi purchased the Artemis bronze on behalf of a private European collector. The sculpture had been in the collection of the Albright Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y., which had deaccessioned it to raise funds for the acquisition of new artworks.
Bidding for the sculpture, estimated to bring $5/7 million, started around $4 million and almost immediately was taken over by two spirited bidders. The work appeared close to selling near the $12 million mark when a new bidder in the room increased the action. Further bidding eventually took the price to more than $28 million.
The sculpture departs from the usual iconography in important ways, Sotheby’s notes, such as the depiction of Artemis as an adolescent girl rather than as a fully developed young woman. She is shown at the moment she has just released her arrow, instead of when she is reaching for it or preparing to shoot. Such aspects, according to Sotheby’s, suggest the work is a late Hellenistic creation designed for the eclectic and highly refined tastes of the Roman art market in the late republic or early empire. Experts believe the statue is likely to have graced the hall or garden of a grand private residence rather than a public space or building.