Bronze Idols Linked To 20th Century Master Painter Derain

5 Jul 2018
London, New Bond Street

An arresting Roman marble portrait head of a man, possibly a priest, leads Bonhams Antiquities sale in London on Thursday 5 July. It is estimated at £60,000-80,000.

The marble portrait dates from between the 1st Century B.C. and the early 1st Century A.D. The subject is completely bald – a rarity in sculptures of this period – and the reason for that may lie in his vocation. The scalp gives the appearance of having been shaved, which suggests the man might have been a priest of the cult of Isis, which was popular in Rome at the time. Priests of Isis were known to shave their heads as an act of worship. A hole in the crown for the insertion of a separate head-covering – now lost – adds weight to the theory.

The sale also features a private Swiss collection of terracottas, and a European private collection of rare Near Eastern works. Two beautiful Piravend bronze idols from the latter were once owned by André Derain who, with Henri Matisse, was the co-founder of the hugely influential early 20th century art movement, Les Fauves. The figures are said to have been a gift from one of Derain's sitters, his sometime lover Domenica Guillaume – the wife of his art dealer, Paul Guillaume. Derain's striking Portrait of Madame Paul Guillaume with a large hat is one of the highlights of the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.

The Piravend figures – one male, one female – were made in Western Iran during the 9th – 8th centuries B.C., but little else is known about them. They may have been deities, and the female figure, who appears to be pregnant, could have been a fertility symbol. They were bought at the sale of Derain's estate in 1956, and have been in the same family ever since. The male figure is estimated at £20,000-25,000, and the female figure at £15,000-20,000.

Bonhams Head of Antiquities Francesca Hickin said: "The sale offers a wide range of objects from many regions and periods. The Swiss collection of terracottas – competitively estimated - is of very high quality; and the two Piravend figures are fascinating on many levels. Not only are they extremely elegant, but they are also shrouded in mystery – we can only guess what they were for – and, of course, carry the prestigious association with André Derain."


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest and most renowned auctioneers, offering fine art and antiques, motor cars and jewellery. The main salerooms are in London, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong, with auctions also held in Knightsbridge, Edinburgh, Paris, San Francisco and Sydney. With a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 22 countries, Bonhams offers advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full list of forthcoming auctions, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, please visit

  1. Francesca Hickin
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8226

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