This ancient Roman statue also carries a piece of Hollywood history. Now it could sell for $ 200,000 at Sotheby’s London


A 2nd-century Roman statue that once belonged to classic movie star turned interior designer William Haines will be offered for sale in antique sculptures at Sotheby’s in London on December 7. The draped marble figure stood in a California couple’s backyard for years before realizing its value as an antique or its significance in Hollywood history.

Almost 50 years ago, the work’s agents, two doctors from South America, bought a house in Brentwood at a foreclosure auction, after the previous owners died in 1973. The property came with a swimming pool, the contents of the garden, and an incredible story that they only discovered after the sale was completed.

The new owners of the house quickly discovered that it was designed by William “Billy” Haines, a movie star during the heyday of Hollywood, whose career was cut short when he refused to hide. his sexuality or his relationship with the love of his life, Jimmie Shields. As a result, Haines was forced to change her profession and ended up as an interior designer for other movie stars, including Joan Crawford.

Inspired by its history, the new owners chose to keep the house and garden almost exactly as Haines had left it, including the statue of a woman in the garden, whom the family saw as a protector or a caring presence. watching over their lives.

The 2nd century Roman marble hermitage of a kore. Photo: Courtesy of Sotheby’s.

Time passed and the couple decided to have the objects of the house valued for sale, only to find that their “protector” was in fact an ancient Roman sculpture with an estimated value of £ 100,000 to £ 150,000 ( $ 135,000 to $ 202,500) and a fascinating provenance.

The partial marble sculpture of a young woman, known in archaeological terms as the herm of a kore, was discovered in 1769 on one of the Seven Hills of Rome, by the Scottish neoclassical painter and antiques hunter amateur Gavin Hamilton. He then gifted the statue to the Marquess of Landsdowne and it remained in the family for two generations before being auctioned in 1930 in London, along with other ancient marbles from the aristocratic collection.

The only mystery is how the statue got to Los Angeles and ended up in Billy Haines’ backyard, although it is believed that he acquired the piece through his work as an architect of successful interior and antique dealer. Haines was known for his eclectic style, combining English furniture with chinoiseries and objects from around the world alongside the modernist design of the time. And he used his house as a showroom, saying, “This is where I take my clients… it’s just the best way to expose them to a certain quality of life as I live it.

The house and garden were once owned by Billy Haines. Photo courtesy of Sotheby’s

Most of Haines’ property was auctioned off at Sotheby’s Parke-Bernet in Los Angeles after his death in 1973, but the statue remained with the house. “Billy would have loved to see his stuff here at Sotheby’s,” a friend of the actor’s biographer told the real estate sale. “I think he would have stood in a corner watching to see who was coming and try to hear what his friends were really thinking about his plays.”

Other items at Sotheby’s upcoming antiques auction include a New Kingdom Egyptian relief valued at £ 70,000 to £ 100,000 ($ 94,500 to $ 135,000), a Roman marble head of Apollo estimated between £ 250,000 and £ 350,000 ($ 337,500 to $ 472,500), a Cycladic marble figure of a goddess from the Paul and Marianne Steiner collection estimated between £ 70,000 and £ 100,000 ($ 94,500 to 135 $ 000), and several South Arab objects from the collection of Antonin and Christiane Besse.

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