Hollywood producer’s prize picture turns out to be 2,300-year-old Greek image

LONDON – A Hellenistic terracotta funerary wall painting circa 3rd century B.C., estimated to sell for $218,000 to $360,000 in Bonhams next antiquities sale on April 29 has attracted admiration for 2,300 years as it moved from Ancient Greece to Hollywood. It will be sold April 29, 2009.

The painting shows the man whose life it was painted to commemorate, seated on a high-backed throne gazing towards the female figure on his right, probably his wife, demurely looking down. To the right of this touching scene stands a nude dark skinned male youth, probably their slave and to the far right of the panel stands a youthful guard, holding a large circular cream-colored shield and a long spear. The presence of an attendant carrying armor suggests that the deceased man in this wall-painting was a warrior.

The image comes from the Weintraub Collection, in California. Seymour Weintraub, a highly successful film producer lived in California, and from the 1950s to the 1970s built up a large collection of coins and antiquities. From 1975 to 1979 the Weintraubs donated many pieces from their collection to the J. Paul Getty Museum; however, the wall painting remained in the family’s private collection until the present day.
Very few original Greek and Hellenistic wall-paintings survive, and even fewer are in private hands. Those that do survive, albeit fragmentary and worn, are all that remains to create a sense of the lost masterpieces of Nikias of Athens and Apelles, Alexander the Great’s court painter, as described by Pausanias and Pliny.

Chantelle Rountree, Head of Bonhams’ Antiquities Department comments: “This lovely image was produced to celebrate a man and his life 2,300 years ago and has patently remained a work of art that still attracts appreciation and respect centuries later because of its complex beauty and technical skill. We are delighted to be selling such a distinguished work with such a fascinating Hollywoood pedigree. The original painter would have been amazed to know that it has survived for so long, while its subject has turned to dust centuries ago, and that it is still attracting art lovers.”

For more information visit www.bonhams.com.