The auction listings put historical art into useful, familiar categorizations: Egyptian, Phoenician, Greek, Etruscan, Roman and Byzantine. Sotheby’s has recently dropped its London antiquities auctions, so that it has added two additional types, Western Asiatic Antiquities and Islamic Works of Antiques, to its June 4 antiquities sales event in Manhattan.
The Christie’s sale, on June 5, includes all historical antiques, starting with neolithic sculpture from the fifth millennium B.C. Both sales are large, and also the works of forms of art are described.
Nevertheless the early world is to get more difficult. Another “lost” culture will be rediscovered, as can be viewed in a show entitled “Historic Gold: The Great deal of the Thracians,” organized through the Republic of Bulgaria with the Trust for Museum Exhibitions in Washington. It really is currently in the Kimbell Museum of Art in Fort Worth (through July 19), then moves to San Francisco and after that New Orleans. Later it will be observed in Memphis, Boston, and Detroit. An accompanying catalogue is authored by Vassil Bojkov and costs $40.
The show’s 200 wonderful gold and silver artifacts, dating from 4000 B.C. to some.D. 400, plus some, only recently excavated, are from the Balkans, a location now comprised of Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Ukraine, northern Greece and western Turkey. It’s a simple show to appreciate. You can find sumptuous gold necklaces dripping with golden rosettes, large gold drinking vessels within the form of galloping horses, silver jugs with friezes depicting wild satyrs pursuing maenads, along with a splendid Pegasus wall plaque. There are also horse trappings and ceremonial objects for mysterious rituals.
Technically, historical Thrace was a Balkan region in which a conglomeration of tribes coexisted on semifriendly terms until they reached the zenith with their power within the fifth century B.C. At one time, Thrace stretched across the Balkan Peninsula, involving the Adriatic and also the Black Sea. (Dr. Stella Miller-Collett, professor of classical archeology at Bryn Mawr College, said Byzantium was named right after the Thracian city of Byzas.) Thrace was a loose entity until around A.D. 45, when the Roman Emperor Claudius annexed it.
The Thracian everyone was Indo-Europeans who settled in Thrace. As Torkom Demirjian, the president of Ariadne Galleries in Manhattan, explained: “Their origins usually are not known. Only the geography is obvious.”
The Thracians had no written language, so what is known on them is colored from the perspective of those that wrote about the subject. To Homer, Thracians were the formidable enemies of the Greeks in the Trojan War. In Book X of “The_Iliad,” Homer covers the Thracian King Rhesos, whose horses were, “probably the most royal We have seen, whiter than snow and swift because the sea wind,” he writes. “His chariot is a master function in gold and silver, and the armor, huge and golden, brought by him the following is marvelous to view, like no war gear of males but of immortals.”
Herodotus writes concerning the ferocity of Thracian warriors, who did not value civilization. According to Thracian custom, he declares, “noblest of all is living from war and plunder.” Thucydides notes how through the Peloponnesian War, 431-404 B.C., the Thracian king was paid the equivalent amount of annual tribute as Athens, 400 to 500 talents.
Just what the Thracians lacked in language, they had in gold. “Athens was without natural gold; it were required to originate from other sources,” Dr. Miller-Collett said. She stated that gold cannot be carbon-dated, but that the earliest worked gold in Europe is at Bulgaria. The goldsmithing is exquisite. The issue is the best way to analyze the Thracian style.
The Letnitsa Treasure, for instance, is a team of 22 fourth-century B.C. plaques that after decorated horse harnesses. Discovered in 1964, the appliques depict bears in mortal combat, a figure attacking a three-headed dragon, a nereid, riding a sea creature, and other energetic encounters. In composition, these figures appear to be the ferocious beasts rendered in metalwork by nomadic peoples in the Asian Steppes. A show with this animal-style antiques is currently at Ariadne Galleries, 970 Madison Avenue, at 76th Street, through June 15.