I attended a lovely reception last night (April 20) at the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Randall Library for the opening of “Illumination,” a one month show focusing on research conducted by UNCW Art History students, under the guidance of Professor Nick Hudson, on a group of 100 ancient oil lamps and pottery vessels from the Levant. The lamps and vessels were a gift I arranged for one of my long term clients to make, and I worked closely with Prof. Hudson on completing this gift. The show continues through May 30 and is well worth a visit if you are in Wilmington. Here are a few images.
In January of this year I wrote a brief article for this Blog dealing with my own experiences as both a dealer in ancient Mediterranean art and an artist myself, and the influence one has upon the other. The article was inspired by an exhibition that was a collaboration between the British Museum and Turner Contemporary at Margate, England. Turner Contemporary has commissioned artist Hannah Lees to respond to a group of Roman Samian Ware bowls, part of the BM’s collections, that had been washed ashore from a Roman shipwreck quite near Margate. The result was a thoughtful collaboration between modern art and the art of antiquity, offering modern viewers a new level of insight into the art and artifacts of the ancient past, while also recontextualizing the modern work.
In that January article I compared some of own work to ancient and later works that had influenced my approach, even if I had not been fully aware when I was making it. In this article I’d like to continue exploring that theme. When I first began to make art of my own a few years ago, I made a very conscious effort to avoid copying or even allowing myself to be influenced by the types of art and artifacts I handled and sold every day as an antiquities dealer. Of course, one cannot entirely block out all influences. These will surface, as they did in my case, whether one likes it or not. So at some point I began to make, not copies but stylistically similar objects in some media, such as ceramics, to those I found appealing, not just from antiquity but the more recent past, as well. A good example is comparing the 13th Century French medieval tankard (top) with my own stoneware tankard with a pie crust foot (below), though mine was influenced perhaps more by medieval English types.
As I continued with this theme, I found great value in learning how ancient and other more recent works had been made from a technical standpoint. It is widely known that relatively few people in the field of art history have much practical experience in studio art. Having spent so much time the last few years working in various media in a studio setting, I can say with certainty that a more substantial studio art regimen should be a requirement for art historians. The insights gained from the practical side of “doing” art lend themselves well to finding answers to the many technical questions art historians must ask about individual works or whole classes of objects. Below is a series of images of English slipware, some marbled, some trail decorated, from the late 1600s to early 1800s. Below these, my own reinterpretations of these styles and techniques.
Medieval pottery of all sorts has long been an area of interest for me. So when I decided to make a “medieval” plate of my own, I added some personal touches. I simplified the central design so that it stood out against a cream to white plain background. I also set one of the fleur-des-lis in the surrounding “frame” off center, so as to eliminate any possibility of the piece being interpreted in a religious framework. Below are two examples of medieval to post-medieval plates of the sort I might have imagined when I was creating my own work, which is shown beneath them.
Still on the subject of pottery, closed form vessels have long been symbolic of many things to many cultures. One common thread is the notion of the female form as a vessel or of a vessel being analogous to female fertility. This last idea was widespread in popular – as opposed to official – religious thought in both classical antiquity and the Middle Ages. The transport amphora, the incredibly common pottery vessel used from at least the 7th Century BC through to the Byzantine period, and in some parts of the Mediterranean world right up into the modern era, certainly can be equated in many ways with the female form, in all its variety. Amphorae came in all shapes and sizes, depending on the products they carried, popular style preferences and by time period. Look at some of the examples below:
I have always had a strong personal response to this form. In 2015 I made the collage piece below. It involves simply colored paper and watercolors on a board backing. I found the act of repeating the small amphora shape over and over irresistible.
My favorite medium is glass, in all its forms. This includes glassblowing, flame or torch working, slumping, casting and enameling. Perhaps no other form of glass is so strikingly beautiful to my eye as the ancient glass inlays produced in Egypt during the Ptolemaic and early Roman periods. Expensive to produce and time consuming to make, the astonishingly precise, technically accomplished small scale works were used as furniture inlays, architectural components and enhancements to a variety of small objects. Having worked in glass myself – torch work, blowing and enamels – I can fully appreciate the extraordinary technical skills of the ancient craftspeople who made these objects, using relatively simple technology. In making enamel pendants, I’ve had the opportunity to use a clean white enamel background against which to set simple multi-colored canes of glass. The effects are quite pleasing, though they seem paltry compared with the extraordinary mosaic glass products of post-dynastic Egypt. Below are two examples of Egyptian glass inlays from the Ptolemaic (305-30 BC) Period and very early Roman Period (30 BC-100 AD). Below them, two examples of my own work using enamel on copper with glass canes.
Egyptian mosaic glass griffin inlay. Ptolemaic Period, Circa 2ND-1ST Century BC
I could not review my personal relationship with and interpretation of the art of past without a brief visit to the shrine of Mark Rothko. In my opinion, Rothko was the greatest painter since Turner; certainly the greatest of the 20th Century. I can remember being quite young and visiting the Berkeley Art Museum, standing in front of several large Rothko canvases. I was stunned but didn’t know at that age how to articulate what I was seeing and experiencing. In fact, it was decades more before I really could. I have never tried to “copy” or in any way imitate Rothko. But his influence on my response to the visible world is always present and beyond my control. Perhaps it is no surprise that he was also a great lover of antiquity and also of Renaissance art. Below are two fine examples of his large canvases. Below them, two pieces of mine in very different media that I think are directly influenced by my reaction to Rothko’s work.
I am more convinced than ever that taking time to explore linkages in visual language and modes of expression in cultures separated by great distances in time and geography can help viewers appreciate more deeply both the ancient and modern.
This Blog has many links to Clio Ancient Art’s online stores. To access my personal artwork, go to (opens in a new tab or window): https://www.etsy.com/shop/PastPresentArtCraft
It’s always a thrill when a new customer contacts me out of the blue to examine a group of objects for purposes of authentication or valuation or for help with bringing the collection up for sale. Often these are objects that have been passed down from parents or grandparents, and just as often the current owner has no way of knowing if the objects are genuine antiquities, fakes or modern tourist pieces.
I do sometimes have to disappoint a customer, informing them that what they thought was a collection of Egyptian mummy masks, for example, is really cheap “airport art” made for sale to European or American tourists fifty years ago. But just as often I find myself privileged to examine their collections in their homes, sometimes from dusty boxes that haven’t been opened in many years or in the recesses of dark basements or garages. Very often the task can be completed simply by examining digital images.
I can’t begin to count the number of objects or large groups of objects I’ve examined in person or online or actually handled. Enjoy these images of just a handful of the exceptional antiquities and groups of objects I’ve had the good fortune to work with over the past eight years. Please feel free to contact me if you need my antiquities consulting services, for authentication, valuation or help with bringing the objects to sale. Our standard rate is $50 per hour or fraction thereof. We also offer consignment of your objects for sale with a 25% commission.
As an artist myself (yes, I have come to accept, to my own astonishment, that in addition to being an antiquities dealer / antiquarian / art historian, I am, at last, an artist) I often find myself influenced, even if sometimes subliminally, by the ancient and medieval art and artifacts I handle every day (see a few images related to this below). So when I saw a newly released YouTube video from The British Museum, in which they collaborated with both Turner Contemporary (one of the UK’s leading art galleries, situated on Margate seafront, on the same site as the boarding house where the great painter J. M. W. Turner stayed when visiting the town), I was ecstatic.
The British Museum and Turner Contemporary commissioned UK artist Hannah Lees to respond to a group of Roman Samian Ware bowls, part of the BM’s collections, that had been washed ashore from a Roman shipwreck quite near Margate. The result was a thoughtful collaboration between modern art and the art of antiquity, though it is worth noting that the Samian Ware bowls in question would not have been considered “art” in their own time, simply practical objects; that is, craft. This type of collaboration, when properly executed, can offer modern viewers a new level of insight into the art and artifacts of the ancient past. Some younger or more aesthetically extreme viewers might see the ancient objects as mere “dead people’s art,” while some more narrow minded viewers of any age might see the modern response to the artifacts as fluff or not even art at all. Well, where art is concerned one cannot please everyone. But collaborations of this sort are valuable and I wish they would become more common.
Here’s an image of a Roman Samian Ware bowl gifted by Clio Ancient Art to the Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA a few years ago, similar to those involved in this project:
Here is a piece I created last year that responds to both Medieval English tiles (a favorite topic) and Islamic “calligrams”- figurative calligraphy.
This is an example of a group of 13th Century English floor tiles at Exeter Cathedral.
And here is a 17th Century Persian calligram, with the “Bismillah” phrase in the form of a bird.
Here is an enameled copper pendant I made, responding to an ancient Egyptian faience flat amulet of the god Hapy, one of the four sons of Horus and god of the inundation – the annual flooding of the Nile. Flat amulets of this sort were often sewn into the wrappings of mummies, particularly from the New Kingdom period onward.
And here is an original example of a flat faience amulet of Hapy, dating to the 22nd Dynasty.
Of course, I could go on with many more examples. But the key point here is that modern and ancient art share a great deal in common, at the most basic levels. If we stop to self-examine our response to one, we may gain valuable insights into the other. That is what made the British Museum’s collaborative project so important and, I think, groundbreaking. Here is the link to their YouTube video on this project:
Here is a link to artist Hannah Lees’ website, with examples of her work, including more detailed views of what she created for this project:
Lastly, here is a link to my own art, available on my personal (not Clio’s) Etsy shop:
Clio’s featured object this week is a very small and inexpensive bronze coin dating from Late Antiquity; specifically the reign of Theodosius I (sometimes referred to as Theodosius the Great). The coin is in remarkably good condition with very clear imagery and text.
Before examining the context and significance of this coin, let’s review the details of the object itself. The obverse features a rather stylized pearl diademed, draped and cuirassed bust of Theodosius facing right, with a fairly standard Latin inscription: DN THEODO-SIVS PF AV is an abbreviated form of “Our Lord Theodosius, the dutiful, the fortunate, Augustus.” The reverse features a winged figure of Victory advancing left, a military trophy over one shoulder, dragging a captive behind her, with another fairly standard late Roman Latin inscription: SALVS REI-PVBLICAE, roughly meaning “Health of the Republic.” In the left field is the early Christian symbol comprised of the Greek letters Chi and Rho, a monogram for Christ. A mintmark, beneath the ground line, shows the coin was struck at the Antioch mint. Antioch was capitol of the Roman province of Syria and is today in the territory of Turkey. The coin measures just 14 mm and weighs a mere 1.35 grams. Its pinkish color is sometimes referred to as a desert patina, indicating burial in dry soil with a high iron content.
The Emperor in whose name this coin was struck was certainly one of the most determined and forceful men of action in Roman history. He could be diplomatic and conciliatory one day, brutal and unforgiving the next. Theodosius came to power following the disastrous defeat of a large Roman field army at the hands of a combined force of Visigoths and Alans, in the Province of Thrace in 378 AD. The Emperor Valens, along with two thirds of his army, perished, leaving only Gratian ruling in the West. Needing a co-ruler, he selected an officer from the province of Iberia (Spain), Flavius Theodosius, to rule in the East and deal with the Goths who were now marauding virtually unchecked through the Balkans.
Once in power, Theodosius decisively defeated two usurpers in the west and, after a grinding four year war with the Goths and their allies, came to a peace agreement that allowed them to settle within the Empire, provided they served as military allies when called. But he is perhaps best known to history for having made the final break with Rome’s ancient “pagan” religious past. In 391 he issued an edict forbidding pagan worship and closing all pagan temples. The dynastic line he founded would come to an end about fifty years later, marking the final split between the rapidly dissolving Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire, known to us today as the Byzantine Empire.
For an excellent study of this important Roman Emperor, as well as a thoughtful examination of the Battle of Hadrianopolis and its long term implications for the Western Roman Empire, we recommend the following work: Theodosius: The Empire at Bay by Gerard Friell and Stephen Williams, 1995, Yale University Press.
For those interested acquiring this coin, it may be found on our Etsy site, here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/265233500/roman-empire-bronze-ae-4-of-theodosius-i?ref=shop_home_active_16 and on our eBay site here: http://m.ebay.com/itm/Roman-Empire-Bronze-AE-4-of-Theodosius-I-AD-383-392-Extremely-Fine-/131843167047?nav=SELLING_ACTIVE
Our object of the week is an intact Roman glass toilet bottle, usually called an unguentarium. This name seems to be a 19th Century invention, based on the ancient Roman term “unguentarius,” a word used to describe sellers of perfumes. This type of glass vessel is believed to have been used for dispensing perfumed oils for both daily and ritual use. The actual Roman name for this type of vessel is unknown, despite the form being relatively common.
Our example is structurally intact. The vessel consists of a long bag shaped body, wider and rounded towards the bottom, with a tall narrow neck that widens to a rim that has been thickened by folding it back over itself. Around the body is a thin trail of glass, applied while molten, making seven full revolutions around the vessel, starting from just above the base and ending at the rim. A pair of chunky handles are attached very thickly to the midpoint of the vessel, are pulled outward and meet it just below the rim. Much of this decorative trailing is still intact. There is some encrusted reddish soil inside the vessel and in recessed areas of the exterior, obscuring the vessel’s original color. The original glass color, which is a transparent green-blue, may be seen clearly at the top of the vessel in the first image above. The vessel sits on a thick, round pad base. When the glass worker was attaching the completed vessel to this base he did so slightly off-center, which may also be seen most clearly in the first of two photographs above.
Unguentaria were first made popular in the Hellenistic period but these were mainly of pottery. Many of these have survived, making them rather inexpensive today, and a few are available on our eBay and Etsy stores. While the pottery types continued into the Roman period, it was the development of glass blowing, making glass a common and affordable commodity rather then the preserve of the wealthy, that made our vessel possible. Blown glass unguentaria have survived in countless forms. The Corning Museum of Glass’ printed and online catalogs of unguentaria list dozens of distinct variations, though few have the twin handles of our example until the middle and late Roman period. Our example was made in the Eastern Mediterranean, probably in the coastal region of what is now Israel/Palestine and Lebanon This form continued on and developed in new directions during the early Byzantine period in the Near East and changed again with the advent of Islamic rule in the region.
This vessel was part of a large collection of antiquities formed by a Welsh collector between the 1970s and 2008, drawn from the UK and European art markets. The collection was dispersed at auction by Bonhams, London, Sale #16777, 29 April, 2009. this object was part of Lot # 302.
For those interested in purchasing this item, you may find it here —
Our Etsy store (opens in a new tab or window) – https://www.etsy.com/listing/261567267/roman-glass-unguentarium-late-3rd-4th?ref=shop_home_active_8
Our eBay store (opens in a new tab or window) – http://www.ebay.com/itm/Roman-Glass-Tubular-Vessel-with-Trailing-4th-5th-Century-AD-/131818636485?hash=item1eb100c4c5:g:SdoAAOSw6BtVU2zy
To learn more about unguentaria and ancient Roman glass in general, we recommend the following printed and web resources —
- E. Marianne Stern, “Roman, Byzantine and Early Medieval Glass, 10 BCE-700 CE” Ernesto Wolf Collection, 2001.
- Roman Glass in the Corning Museum of Glass, Volumes I and II, Corning Museum of Glass, 1997 and 2001, respectively
Because these printed resources are quite expensive, we also recommend online research. The Corning Museum of Glass has a tremendous online collection of ancient glass, especially Roman. A simple search for the word “Ancient” with an image brought up 4,644 results (new tab or window) – http://www.cmog.org/collection/search?f=bs_has_image%3A1&f=im_field_object_work_type%3A299021&solrsort=
Also useful is this exploration of Roman glass from the University of Pennsylvania Museum (new tab or window) – http://www.penn.museum/sites/Roman%20Glass/index.html
Today we are launching a new feature, entitled “Clio’s Object of the Week.” In this feature we plan to highlight a single antiquity or ancient coin from our stock and explore the object in more detail than is normally permitted in our commercial listings. A link will be included for those interested in purchasing the item.
Our choice for the first object in this weekly feature is a superb Cypriot Black on Red Ware pottery bowl. This deep bowl dates to the 7th Century BC, which on the Island of Cyprus would correspond the Iron Age and specifically what is referred to in archaeological terms as the Cypro-Archaic Period. This last term is intended to suggest a linkage to the Archaic Period of the Greek mainland and islands, a time when Greek civilization was beginning to fully emerge from the so-called “dark age” that followed the collapse of earlier Bronze Age civilizations in Greece and many parts of the eastern Mediterranean. By the Cypro-Archaic Period, most of Cyprus was Greek speaking. The Island’s small city states had recently freed themselves from a period of Assyrian rule, though they would later be controlled briefly by Egypt and Persia, before becoming fully integrated into the Hellenistic world.
Cypriot Black on Red Ware, also sometimes known as Cypro-Phoenician Ware, typically has a burnished red slip with added decoration in thin black lines. The motifs used are typically “bulls eye” designs and parallel lines forming concentric circles in varying thicknesses. Evidence suggests that it was produced only on the Island of Cyprus at multiple production centers beginning around 850 BC, and had a long life, continuing into the 5th Century BC. Although a great deal of Cypriot pottery of all periods was legally exported from the Island during the period of Ottoman rule, especially in the 19th Century, and during the British colonial period from 1914 through 1960, deep bowls of this type are much less common than the juglets and other closed form containers available on the antiquities market today.
Of special interest on this example are the fingerprints of the potter who made it – two smudged finger marks in black slip. These are visible in the first image at the top of this article, inside the bowl at upper left, and again in the image above, directly alongside the handle but inside the bowl. These marks are a remarkable survival from antiquity. They remind us that pottery such as this was intended primarily as utilitarian ware, not as art, and that modern collectors and art historians have redefined such objects as art based on rarity and beauty.
To view this object on our Etsy store, go here (opens in a new tab or window): https://www.etsy.com/listing/280649766/cypriot-black-on-red-ware-large-pottery?ref=shop_home_active_8
To view this object on our eBay store, go here (opens in a new tab or window): http://www.ebay.com/itm/Cypriot-Black-on-Red-Ware-Large-Pottery-Bowl-7th-Century-BC-/131793379127?hash=item1eaf7f5f37:g:yP8AAOSw8d9UsZhX
To learn more about ancient Cyprus, we recommend the following books —
Ancient Art from Cyprus: The Cesnola Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, N.Y.), 2000
The Art of Ancient Cyprus by Desmond Morris, Phaidon, 1985
For online resources we recommend –
- The ancient Cyprus page on the Ashmolean Museum’s website (opens in a new tab or window) – http://www.ashmolean.org/ash/amps/cyprus/
- The ancient Cyprus page on the British Museum’s website (opens in a new tab or window) – http://www.britishmuseum.org/research/publications/online_research_catalogues/ancient_cyprus_british_museum.aspx
As dealers in the antiquities trade go, we’ve never been very conventional here at Clio. In keeping with that reputation, we’re making a dramatic move away from our long established website and offering customers access to our stock of antiquities, ancient coins, books and more through a range of e-commerce platforms.
E-commerce changed dramatically the last few years. We noted the move away from conventional transactions over a relatively static website and towards selling platforms like eBay, Etsy and Shopify. Many merchants in all sorts of industries noticed it, too. Our own sales reports made it clear that to keep up with the changing nature of online sales we needed to offer antiquities and ancient coins through a range of sites.
Now you and other customers worldwide may find Clio Ancient Art at the following locations –
Find us on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities
Find us on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClioAncientArt
Find us on WordPress: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/
Find us on Shopify / Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClioAntiquities/
Each of these platforms serves a slightly different type of clientele but collectively they reach countless millions of customers, including most of our established clients. Released of the burden of a time consuming and costly website with cookie cutter service, we can focus on targeted and expanding sales through a variety of platforms offering increasingly sophisticated analytics. This can only mean better greater flexibility for our clients
Our old website will quietly vanish over the next few days. Over the next couple of months we’ll be upgrading and monetizing our long established blog on WordPress. Our shops on eBay, Etsy and Facebook / Shopify will be regularly offering specials and a rotating mix of quality antiquities, ancient coins and print resources. We hope you’ll take the time to visit them all and find the one you like best.
Thank you again for your time and your support over the past 7 years. We look forward to hearing from you again soon.
With best wishes,
Chris M. Maupin
Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities
PO Box 7714
Wilmington, NC 28406
Find us on eBay: http://www.ebay.com/usr/clioantiquities
Find us on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/ClioAncientArt
Find us on WordPress: https://clioantiquities.wordpress.com/
Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ClioAntiquities/
Customers. Friends and Fans:
We have updated the Clio Ancient Art with some very fine Egyptian, Hellenistic and Roman antiquities in faience, bronze, glass and ceramic, as well as Roman, Byzantine and medieval coins. The Egyptian and Hellenistic items in particular have an exceptional provenance. Here they are with links to each item –
- An Egyptian Bronze Statuette of Nefertum – http://clioancientart.com/ancientegyptianartandantiquitiesforsale.aspx
- An Egyptian Blue-Green Faience Lion Amulet – http://clioancientart.com/anegyptianblue-greenfaiencelionamulet.aspx
- A Large Hellenistic Wheel-Made Ceramic Oil Lamp – http://clioancientart.com/alargehellenisticwheel-madeceramicoillamp.aspx
- A Group of Two Hellenistic Ceramic Oil Lamps – http://clioancientart.com/agroupoftwohellenisticceramicoillamps.aspx
- A Large Late Roman Trail Decorated Barrel Shaped Glass Bead – http://clioancientart.com/alargelateromantraildecoratedbarrelshapedglassbead.aspx
- A Large Late Roman Trail Decorated Spherical Glass Bead – http://clioancientart.com/alargelateromantraildecoratedsphericalglassbead.aspx
- A Romano-British Bronze Fibula (Brooch) – http://clioancientart.com/aromano-britishbronzebrooch.aspx
- An Early Roman European Bronze Fibula (Brooch) – http://clioancientart.com/anearlyromaneuropeanbronzefibulabrooch.aspx
- A Roman Bronze Bow Fibula (Brooch) – http://clioancientart.com/aromanbronzebowfibulabrooch.aspx
- Roman Empire, Silver Denarius of Gordion III http://clioancientart.com/romanempiresilverdenariusofgordioniii.aspx
- Kingdom of Armenia, Levon IV, 1320-1342 AD, Bronze 13 mm – http://clioancientart.com/kingdomofarmenialevoniv1320-1342adbronze13mm.aspx
- Byzantine Empire, Bronze Follis of Justin II and Sophia, AD 565-578 – http://clioancientart.com/byzantineempirebronzefollisofjustiniiandsophiaad565-578.aspx
- Byzantine Empire, Bronze Follis of Constans II, AD 641-668 – http://clioancientart.com/byzantineempirebronzefollisofconstansiiad641-668.aspx
Thank you for visiting our site. We can also be found on Etsy, Ebay and on Shopify via our Facebook page.
Chris M. Maupin
Clio Ancient Art and Antiquities
This faded, tattered old picture is something more personal than our usual offerings here at Clio Ancient Art: A 1947 photo of my extended family, on my mother’s side, on a day trip to visit the ruins of Babylon. They are gathered around, and on, the guardian lion at the Ishtar Gate, carved from basalt and dating to the 6th Century BC.
Is it any wonder I pursued archaeology in academia and later became an antiquities dealer?
Much has changed in the world of archaeology, and in the legitimate antiquities trade, since this image was taken. The very scene where this was taken has undergone dramatic changes, none of them for the better, and not one person in this image is still alive. But whatever tumult this lion of Babylon has seen in the last few decades is certainly no worse than what had come before.
Perhaps this stone lion is a reminder to us of the valuable lessons history has to offer, and the beautiful handiwork of human creativity, if we are prepared to stop and examine the past without sectarian, nationalist, ethnic or religious prejudice.