Love is love is love…and the goddess of love, Aphrodite, has certainly earned her place in the record books. An ancient Roman marble statue, known as the Hamilton Aphrodite, was recently sold in London. This sculpture dates to the 1st or 2nd century AD, and while there are no records of its whereabouts for centuries, the provenance is impeccable from 1775 forward when the painter and art dealer Gavin Hamilton (1723-1798) acquired it. He then sold it to Douglas Hamilton, the 8th Duke of Hamilton, while on his Grand Tour. The sculpture remained in the Duke’s families Scotland estate, known as Hamilton Palace, for the next 144 years.
In 1920, the sculpture was offered by art dealers Spink and Son in London and sold to the media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Supposedly, Hearst kept the statute crated in a warehouse in the Bronx until he sold it to art dealer Joseph Brummer in 1940.
In 1947 Joseph Brummer passed away and in 1949, Parke-Bernet Galleries in New York held Brummer’s estate sale. The consignor for this recent sale is a descendant of the collector who purchased it at the estate sale.
Through the years, it appears that the sculpture has had extensive ‘plaster and marble surgery’ to keep up her good looks. The condition report states the full support (vase and drapery) is restored in marble and sunk into the ancient base; additionally, there are many patches of marble restoration throughout the figure. What I found most surprising is that the head and body are two different sculptures that were put together at some point…wow!
The sculpture was featured in a single-lot sale with a presale estimate of £2-3 M. Five bidders competed for the goddess and after a 20-minute bidding war, the hammer finally fell. The statue sold for £16M ($21M – £18.6/$24.6M w/p) to an anonymous telephone bidder from Asia.