Lekythoi lead sale in Essex

A collection of antiquities formed by the late Sir Clinton Charles Donald Cory (1937-2022), 5th Baronet of Coryton, was among the highlights of a sale in Essex this month.

The items were recently offered in Sworders’ Fine Interiors sale.

A lifelong aesthete, traveller, gardener, and philanthropist, he lived in Letchworth, Hertfordshire. Sir Donald, as he preferred to be known, travelled extensively in Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia and many furnishings in his home reflected this wanderlust. However, it was pottery from Classical Greece that held a particular fascination, and he revelled in meticulously cataloguing and archiving his collection, recording the time and place of each purchase and the whereabouts of other similar examples. His extensive holdings were sold in a total of 23 lots with every piece eagerly contested for a total hammer of close to £60,000.

An ancient Greek black-figure lekythos vessel
The black-figure lekythos vessel painted with a chariot scene sold for £3,800

Leading the dispersal was a series of Attic red and black figure lekythoi (painted oil storage vessels) from the 5th century BC. Although often found in funerary settings, they are decorated with a wide range of images, both form daily life and mythology. The 20cm black-figure lekythos painted with a chariot scene in the manner of an artist known as the Haimon painter sold at £3,800 while a similar vessel decorated with Athena by the workshop of ‘the Class of Athens 581’ took £3,000. Both had been bought at London auctions in the 1980s: at Christie’s in May 1989 and at Phillips in December 1985.

An antique Greek lekythos vessel decorated with Athena
The lekythos decorated with Athena sold for £3,000

Another key vessel from the classical period of Greek pottery is the wine jug or oinochoe. Sir Donald owned several examples made in 4th century Apulia including a 22cm red-figure trefoil jug attributed to the painter of the Macinagrossa Stand c.325-300 BC and a larger 30cm oinochoe painted with a female head wearing a patterned kekryphalos to her hair. With provenances to leading dealers (Agora Ancient Art, Vienna in July 1986 and BA Seaby, London in August 1993) they sold at £1,700 and £1,900 respectively.

Also from the Magna Greece territories in southern Italy was a 17cm terracotta roofing antefix depicting the horned head of the goat god Pan. Likely from the roof frieze of a grand 4th century BC building in Taras (modern-day Taranto), it had been acquired in November 1996 from the London dealership Charles Ede. It hammered at £950.