Yesterday I went to have a look at the items on offer in Christie’s forthcoming antiquities sale (Thursday 25 October). I was lucky enough to be shown around by the lovely Ruth Allen, administrator to the sale who showed me some of her personal highlights, including this stunning statue of Isis, valued at £400,000 to £600,000. Isis was the universal mother figure of the Egyptian gods, who resurrected Osiris, her husband and brother, after he was dismembered and scattered along the Nile by the jealous Seth. A Marian figure, she is often depicted breast feeding her son Horus, and here she has a certain monumental serenity redolent of the enthroned Virgin. Indeed, her name signifies ‘throne,’ and as the embodiment of regal power she was a popular deity among the ruling elite; this statue once stood in the tomb of the Royal Acquaintance Ptahirdis.
They also had some exquisite antique jewellery, much of which could still be worn today. However, my favourite piece was perhaps a little too chunky to wear – an enormous carnelian cameo ring, carved with a bust of Zeus. No matter, the carving is of such fabulous quality that I’d be happy simply to sit and contemplate it.