Early Picture of a Dog on a Lead
From the collection of Desmond Morris offered at Bonhams

One of the first known depictions of a dog on a lead is being offered at Bonhams' Antiquities Sale at New Bond Street on Wednesday 3 July. It is painted on one of three panels of a large Persian pottery jar dated circa late 3rd to late 2nd century BC, and shows a hunter with a bow and arrow holding a curly-tailed dog which, in turn, is herding goats on a mountainside. The estimate of the jar is £20,000 - 30,000.

The jar is part of the collection of Dr Desmond Morris, the celebrated broadcaster, author of The Naked Ape, and Surrealist painter. As Dr Morris told Bonhams Magazine, "The dog is shown with a lead, collar and a curly tail and he is in competition with the shaggy-coated wolf which is bristling on the other side of the vase with a characteristically horizontal tail. It gives us an insight into how these people went hunting – with a herding dog and a hunting dog."

Desmond Morris fell in love with antiquities when he walked into the Cyprus Museum in Nicosia. It prompted him to start a collection that comprised some 3,000 pieces. A selection of these Cypriot works – together with Roman, Persian, and Canaanite objects - will be offered in the sale.

As Dr Morris told Bonhams Magazine, "I saw these amazing pieces of pottery, extraordinary shapes that were so creative and imaginative, that I fell in love with them instantaneously. It was the inventiveness of the way in which they would put little figures all the way around the rim of a bowl, which were all doing things such as making bread. It was like a strip cartoon of ancient life."

Francesca Hickin, Bonhams' Head of Antiquities Department, said, "It is an honour to offer the collection of Desmond Morris. Desmond's book on Cypriot Art is the definitive volume on the subject and this is a collection that has been assembled with knowledge and with love."

Other highlights of the collection include:

A Canaanite bronze figure; Bronze Age, circa 1500-1200 B.C.
This 13cm high standing figure is shown with bent arms extended holding two offering vessels. He is wearing a pleated kilt and conical hat that could come from Anatolia, with enlarged features on his face, and a double piercing on his right ear. Estimate £7,000-10,000

A Cypriot terracotta horse 19.5cm high and 17.5cm long with a harness and trappings and painted with black strips, now faded. Estimate: £800 - 1,200.

A large Daunian pottery olla circa 5th Century B.C. (above)
A bowl decorated with geometric designs and handles in the shape of hands, 31cm high. Estimate: £2,000 - 3,000

There is also a series of Iranian Amlash female figures (estimates from £2,000 – 3,000) with broad hips and pronounced buttocks. As Desmond Morris says, "They display steatophygia, today known as the Kardashian syndrome. It was a fatty deposit that protected the females from starvation. But it was also visually very dramatic. The strange thing is why do these figures found in Iran have steatophygia. I'm guessing it's a feature of the prehistoric mother goddess and that they were used as lucky charms, carried to ensure pregnancy."

Desmond Morris

Desmond Morris, 91, studied at Oxford University, is author of more than 40 books, including The Lives of Surrealists, which was published this year, and has been at the forefront of social anthropology for more than 70 years. One of his most famous films explored the origins of art by investigating the picture-making abilities of chimpanzees. As he told Bonhams Magazine, "When artists such as Miro saw the paintings, they realised ... that this was the birth of art, not the images in the Lascaux caves."


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