- Greek gold ring, perhaps depicting Nike Apteros

Greek gold ring, perhaps depicting Nike Apteros

Hellenistic. 4th century BC

Collection of the Forbeses of Pitsligo, Scotland

One of the Forbeses brought the ring back to Fettercairn House when he returned from a Grand Tour in the late 18th/early 19th century


The stirrup-shaped ring with broad hoop semi-circular in section and flat circular bezel is engraved in intaglio with the figure of a draped maiden standing in left profile within a hatched border. Shown wearing a belted chiton, with a ribbon tied around her left wrist, and her hair pulled back in a so-called 'melon-coiffure', she leans against a column whilst offering a wreath in her outstretched right hand.

It is possible that this is a depiction of Nike Apteros, or wingless Nike, whose statue stood in the Temple of Nike on the Acropolis in Athens as a symbol of her permanent presence in the city - and hence also of Athens' continued military prominence. However, although the goddess is typically shown holding a victory wreath, such an identification cannot be certain here. It is just as likely that this is a mortal woman and that the ambiguity of goddess and maiden was deliberate, perhaps referencing victory in love rather than in battle.

Ring size: I

  - Greek black-figure Kylix with boar and bull, attributed to the Centaur Painter

Greek black-figure Kylix with boar and bull, attributed to the Centaur Painter

Attic. 540-530 BC

Private collection (P. F-C.), Lugano, Switzerland, acquired 1960, and thence by descent

A twin to this cup in the J.L. Theodor collection has been published twice: P. Heesen, 'The J.L. Theodor Collection of Attic Black-figure Vases', 1996, 146-148, no. 35, and Heesen, 'Athenian Little-Master Cups', 2011, no. 566, pl. 145b-c.

A comparable lip-cup attributed to the Centaur Painter, depicting a wounded bull, was sold at Christie's London, 3rd July 1996, Lot 42 for £10,000.

A black-figure kylix or lip-cup, the lip characteristically off set from the lower bowl with distinct ridge. Slender loop handles attached to the bowl, the foot with high stem and wide base. The edge of the base reserved, also a reserved line at the inner rim and the interior black with reserved central tondo with two rings and a dot. The exterior decorated only with two animals painted centrally on either side, a boar and a bull each walking calmly forward towards each other on the opposing sides.

Though the Centaur Painter is known for his lively scenes, hunts and pursuits he also, as in this example, depicted quieter scenes of animals grazing or slowly moving forward. This cup dates from the middle period of his career (540-530 BC), in which he made his most refined work. He was both potter and painter of (usually small) cups. Pieter Heesen believes he entered the workshop of Nearchos and his sons Tleson and Ergoteles around 540 BC, possibly as a replacement of Ergoteles, who may have become unable to continue working or may even have died young, although another explanation is possible: It cannot be excluded that Ergoteles, who started as potter only, continued as the potter-painter who is now known as the Centaur Painter.

Known as little master cups, a term referring to the miniature nature of the painting, this type of drinking vessel was made in Athens in the 6th century BC. The delicacy of their minimal decoration makes them particularly appealing.

Condition: Intact. Crack from rim to lower bowl consolidated and secured.

This comes with a thermoluminescence test report from Oxford Authentication confirming its antiquity.

Diameter of bowl: 13.9 cm Height: 9.9 cm. Width (including handles): 20.8 cm

  - Roman marble portrait head of a woman

Roman marble portrait head of a woman

mid 3rd century AD

Private collection, France, acquired 19th Century (consistent with Carrara marble socle, nose and chin drilled for restoration, and overall patina)

Compare a silver coin of Herennia Etruscilla and a gold coin of Salonina both in the British Museum (acc. nos G.2388 and 1867,0101.824). A very similar marble bust is in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, inv. no. I.N. 1493; see F. Johansen, Catalogue Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek. Roman Portraits, vol. 3, 1995, p. 130-131, no. 54).

Of middle age, her centrally parted hair pulled back behind the ears and folded into a flat vertical bun at the nape of the neck that is lifted up and fixed on the crown of the head. She turns her gaze slightly to the right, her eyes with incised irises and drilled pupils, her arched brows meeting above her nose, her lips pursed in a faint smile.

The distinctive hairstyle is similar to that worn by Herennia Etruscilla, wife of emperor Trajanus Decius (r. AD 249-251), and Salonina, wife of emperor Gallienus (r. AD 253-268).

Condition: White marble with yellowish-brown patina overall; loss to nose, lips and chin, small area of loss above right temple, and lower right corner of hair; diagonal break to neck. Drilled perforations in chin and nose indicating historic restoration.

Height: 20 cm

  - Roman marble figure of a woman

Roman marble figure of a woman

c. 1st-2nd century AD

With Jean-Philippe Mariaud de Serres, Paris, 1980s; Private collection, Los Angeles, acquired from the above prior 1989

Published: 'Grange Style', House and Garden, July 1989, p. 104.

Comparatives: See for example a Roman marble statuette of the goddess Hygeia in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (acc. no. 1974.131), and a draped torso from a Roman portrait statue in the British Museum (acc. no. 1854,0509.1).

Perhaps depicting a goddess, shown standing with her weight on her left leg and her right slightly bent at the knee, wearing a long pleated chiton and himation draped over her left shoulder, which then cascades over the front of her torso and down the left side of her body. Her breast and right shoulder is thinly veiled by a delicate undergarment, the folds of which are carefully and convincingly carved. She perhaps held an attribute in her now-missing left hand.

It is tempting to see this as a representation of Aphrodite: the suggestively-thin drapery across the chest that hints at nude flesh would be appropriate here. However, other female deities dress like this, too, as do Roman women, and in the absence of an attribute, it is impossible to know if this is a representation of a mortal or immortal woman, and if a goddess, which one. See for example a Roman marble statuette of the goddess Hygeia in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (acc. no. 1974.131), and a draped torso from a Roman portrait statue in the British Museum (acc. no. 1854,0509.1).

Height: 56 cm (53cm excluding base)

  - Roman bronze protome of a boar

Roman bronze protome of a boar

2nd century AD

Private collection (R.M.) UK, acquired prior to 1970

Published: Rupert Wace Ancient Art, 2017, no. 50.

Animals of this type were used in a variety of forms as vessel fitments. See, for example, a handle in the form of a boar from the collection of Naji Asfar, illustrated in Debra Noel Adams, Emma C. Bunker, Trudy Kawami, Robert Morkot, Dalia Tawil, 'When Orpheus Sang' (Paris, 2004), p.191, no.198.

The vessel fitment cast as the forepart of a boar. Realistically modelled, the animal appears to leap forward with front legs outstretched (now broken at the knee joint). A crest of thick bristles runs down the neck, a long mane of hair covering the shoulders and a 'beard' of bristles sweeping away from the face. Eyes hollowed for inlay beneath sharp brows. Large hairy ears are pricked alertly, one pierced at the top, the other missing its, no doubt similarly pierced, tip. The apparently snarling tusked mouth open to serve as a spout. The body finished with a flattened plate for attachment to a vessel.

Boars, rams and bulls formed the triad of animals sacrificed to Mars by the state in the suovetaurilia ceremony to bless and purify the land. Wild boar were also offered to Artemis, the goddess of the hunt and were a sought after culinary luxury in the Roman world.

Length: 7.2 cm

  - Greek black-figure neck amphora attributed to the Euphiletos painter

Greek black-figure neck amphora attributed to the Euphiletos painter

Attic. c.550-500 BC

Private collection (PC), Nuremberg, Germany, acquired in the 1920s or 30s and thence by descent; Private collection (KL), London

Another example of the Euphiletos painter depicting a Dionysiac scene is shown in J. Boardman, 'Athenian Black Figure Vases', (1974), no. 222. This painter is, however, best known for his Panathenaic amphorae, large vessels made to contain the olive oil given as prizes in the Panathenaic Games and decorated with suitable sporting scenes. An example of this type in the Staatliche Antikensammlungen, Munich (accession no. 1452) also depicts a chariot, but in this case it races at full speed.

The amphora, with clearly defined neck and distinct shoulder, is decorated on one side with a quadriga, the chariot of the gods. A female goddess drives the four horses harnessed characteristically abreast. She stands in the carriage holding the reins and whip. Apollo stands on the ground beside her and a second goddess faces them. The B side shows Dionysos holding vine branches facing a maenad, the figures flanked by two satyrs with long tails.

The lid, contemporary but probably not original to this vase, decorated with concentric circles of black glaze with rounded knob.

The individual decorative registers in the bottom section – encircling rays, lotus buds and meander pattern – are separated by 3 lines. This is a feature often associated with the “Three Line Group” but in this case is indicative only of the vase type as the quality of the painting far exceeds the known examples of this group. The vase can be attributed to Euphiletos, the renowned Attic black-figure painter active in the second half of the 6th century BC.

Recomposed from original fragments, small losses restored.
This comes with a thermoluminescence test report from Oxford Authentication confirming its antiquity.

Height: 40.5 cm. Including lid 45cm

  - Roman emerald and gold necklace

Roman emerald and gold necklace

2nd-3rd Century AD

With Peter Sharrer, New York USA; Private collection UK, acquired 1981

An example of this type of Roman necklace combining fine gold links interspersed with beads of precious stones in the collection of the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Rome is illustrated in Susan Weber Soros and Stefanie Walker (eds), 'Castellani and Italian Archaeological Jewelry', Yale University Press, 2004, p.144, cat no. 112. A necklace with very similar emerald beads and gold links of slightly different form is in the collection of the British Museum (acquisition no. 1872, 0604.669), illustrated in Lois Sherr Dubin, 'The History of Beads, from 30,000 BC to the Present', New York, 1987, p. 54.

Composed of seventeen polished emerald crystals of varying cross section, interspersed with cut-out gold figure of eight links. Fastened with a hook and domed boss clasp.

The practice of linking beads rather than stringing them together derived from the Hellenistic period. A similar form of necklace continued into the Byzantine era.

Length: 35 cm

  - Tanagra terracotta draped female figure

Tanagra terracotta draped female figure

Hellenistic. c. 3rd century BC

Collection of Michael Walz, UK, acquired late 1960s-70s

Named for the cemetery in Boeotia where they were first identified, it has been suggested these Tanagra figures may have been inspired by theatrical productions where women played on the stage. Alternatively, they have been thought to portray ladies of fashion. For the type and a discussion see Robert S. Bianchi et al, 'Cleopatra's Egypt. Age of the Ptolemies' (Brooklyn, 1988) pp. 220-221, cats. 112-114.

The figure stands in typically relaxed pose with left leg slightly forward, her weight into her right hip which pushes forward. Depicted wearing a chiton and himation wrapped tightly around her, hands hidden beneath the folds, the cloak draped over her extended left arm her right hand resting on her hip. Her centrally parted hair swept up into a bow knot and back, to be tied in chignon. A circular vent hole between the shoulders.

This comes with a thermoluminescence test report from Oxford Authentication confirming its antiquity.

Height: 17 cm

  - Roman glass jug

Roman glass jug

1st - 2nd century AD

With Galerie Jürgen Haering, Freiburg, since the late 1970s

See C. S. Lightfoot, 'Ancient Glass in National Museums Scotland' (Edinburgh, 2007) p. 81, no.173 and p.82, no.176 for similar examples.

The squat bulbous body slumped towards the broad base, flat with small central indent and traces of the pontil mark on the underside. The slightly bulging cylindrical neck with indent around the base. A collared rim with outward horizontal lip and flat upper surface. A single broad strap handle with three trailing pads at the edges applied to the shoulder and drawn up, turned in at an acute angle and trailed upwards under the lip. Of transparent pale blue-green glass.

Height: 13.5 cm

  - Hellenistic bronze stool

Hellenistic bronze stool

c. 4th-3rd century BC

UK collection acquired 1970s to 1990s; Property of a Private Foundation, acquired from the above 2003

A silver diphros of very similar design was found inside the 4th-century BC Macedonian tomb Agios Athanasios I at Stavroupolis, Thessaloniki (Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, inv. no. ΜΘ 7440); see D. Andrianou, 'The Furniture and Furnishings of Ancient Greek Houses and Tombs', Cambridge, 2009, pp. 28-29, no. 6 and p. 158, n. 20 for further discussion and parallels. We can also compare the stool shown on the 4th century BC stele of Polyxena in Athens (National Museum, inv. no. 723) where the tops of the turned legs clearly protrude above the seat, a feature seemingly intended to keep the cushion in place; see G. M. A. Richter, 'The Furniture of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans', London, 1966, pp. 40-41.
For evidence of possible Near Eastern influence see H. Kyrieleis, 'Throne und Klinen: Studien zur Formgeschichte altorientalischer und griechischer Sitz- und Liegemobel vorhellenistischer Zeit' (Berlin, 1969), 40-41

Of rectangular form, with four cylindrical legs tapering to a circular profiled foot, each decorated with three turned bands, the tops of the legs protruding above the seat frame to form four circular bosses, a horizontal stretcher across the two short sides, also with a central turned band, each terminating at the leg in two curved attachment plates with chequered border, a rectangular space for the insertion of a woven seat.

Four-legged stools - or diphroi - of this type are known from numerous representations on Greek vases and reliefs and are also well-described in the ancient literature. A number of metal examples in silver and iron have been excavated from Hellenistic and Roman period tombs in Macedonia and Thrace, where they formed part of the funerary furniture buried with the dead; these diphroi were often used to support a vessel containing the ashes of the deceased or else for the placement of smaller offerings within the tomb.

The size of this example suggests it may have been used as a foot-stool, perhaps specifically for mounting and dismounting a horse. Domestic Greek stools were typically made of wood, sometimes with solid metal feet. Solid metal stools are unusual, suggesting ceremonial or perhaps royal use. It also points to Near Eastern influence.

Height: 35.9 cm Width: 29.5 cm Depth: 20.5 cm