Ancient Egyptian Sculpture being shown by DR. ROBERT R. BIGLER at Tenth Annual BASEL ANCIENT ART FAIR

. September 12, 2013

ZURICH – At the Tenth Anniversary BASEL ANCIENT ART FAIR ( November 8 – 13, Zurich art dealer, Dr. Robert R. Bigler, ( a specialist in Asian and Egyptian Art, will be showing an extraordinary collection of over 70 Egyptian objects that includes a graywacke torso of a king originating from Egypt and the early Ptolemaic period. He also will feature two Buddhist sculptures from the Gandhara region and several Neolithic pieces.

“This 3rd century B.C. graywacke torso is important because hard-stone royal sculpture from this period generally is rare. Because the back pillar carries no inscription, we unfortunately cannot determine which of the early Ptolemaic pharaohs is portrayed by this example, but the style, the fine quality of the execution of the facial features and the material used suggest that the figure probably represents Ptolemy II (reigned 282-246 B.C.) or one of his two immediate successors – all of these ruler reigned during the 3rd century B.C. Despite the fact that a part of the body has been lost on the right side of the statue, it is remarkable how well preserved the face is; which is framed by the “nemes” headcloth, one of the attributes of a king.

Perhaps a word on the material used for this work of art: Graywacke is a very hard and fine grained stone which – when highly polished as in this case – can produce an almost metallic shine on its surface. There were only few quarries where graywacke was collected – the most famous quarry was that at Wadi Hammamat in the Eastern desert. There is a high probability that the stone used for this sculpture originally came from there.”

A second highlight at Bigler’s stand will be a rare Egyptian figure of a striding high-ranking official from the Middle Kingdom (13th Dynasty, ca. 1750), made of granodiorite.

Bigler says that what distinguishes this figure is the fact that “although other similar statues from this ‘classic’ period of Egyptian art exist, this example is of particular interest, not only because of its high quality. This is evident by the subtle polish of the surface, and by the precise execution of the facial details. Granodiorite is also a very hard stone and therefore frequently used for the production of three-dimensional images representing officials or dignitaries of high social status or rank. The more durable a stone was, the more precious it was considered.

“As the back pillar has remained uninscribed, we unfortunately know nothing about the identity of the person portrayed. There is however a short hieroglyphic inscription on the left side of the back pillar, and turned by 90 degrees, it can be translated as ‘house of Ptah’ or ‘temple of Ptah.’

“This text is carefully executed but not deeply cut into the surface of the stone indicating that it most probably was some kind of official permission, perhaps by the royal court, describing where the statue was allowed to be placed. In this case it was a temple of the god Ptah somewhere in a larger city. The short inscription would later have been erased when the figure reached its final destination and probably the name and the titles of the person the sculpture portrayed were then added and inscribed so that the figure, as a substitute for the real person, could profit from the daily offerings made at the temple.”
A third highlight at Bigler’s stand during the Basel Ancient Art Fair will be a very rare green faience Egyptian cosmetic spoon, 11.5cm in length, in the shape of a trussed duck and dating to the 8th to 6th century B.C. Bigler is also offering two Buddhist sculptures including a stucco head of the Buddha and another of a Bodhisattva – both from the 4th century A.D. He says, “The Gandharan style found in the region of today’s Pakistan and Afghanistan, has its origins in the Hellenistic culture. Within the group of more than 70 Egyptian works I am showing there will be a selection of very interesting ‘ushabtis,’ which are funerary figures in various materials including wood, stone and faience.”

One of four co-organizers of the BASEL ANCIENT ART FAIR, (, Dr. Bigler says that, “BAAF provides a unique opportunity for serious collectors and institutions to see some of the best ancient art currently on the market and offered by the world’s most respected dealers. No one has better access to important works of art in this field than the dealers exhibiting at this fair.”

Bigler earned a Ph. D. in European History of Art and studied Asian History of Art and Egyptology at the University of Zurich before embarking on his career. He started his business in 1994 and since then has earned a reputation for scholarship and integrity in his field. He is a featured exhibitor at important national and international fairs including Fine Art Zurich, Cultura Basel, BAAF Brussels, BAAF Basel, and Arts of the Pacific Asia Show, New York. In March, 2013 during Asia Week in New York, Bigler staged an exhibition and published “Art and Faith at the Crossroads. Tibeto-Chinese Buddhist images and ritual implements from the 12th to the 15th century.”

“Among dealers of ancient art I am one of the few protagonists with an academic, rather than a purely trade-oriented background; therefore my approach is slightly different and accordingly I have my own philosophy.” Bigler uses his academic knowledge and training to acquire rare or unusual objects whose virtues may have been overlooked or not properly identified by less academically-oriented art dealers. As a result, and on the basis of thorough research, he can help his clients make the right choices and decisions about their collections.

“The longer I work and deal with Egyptian art, the more I am fascinated by the skills of the ancient craftsmen. I have great respect for their capabilities to understand and perfectly handle all kinds of materials, especially hard stones which often had to be collected in remote areas and then transported for hundreds of miles before they reached the royal ateliers.”

Born in Zurich in 1961, Bigler says his love of ancient art can be linked to his first visit to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, during a school-excursion, when he was nine and living in the United States.
“The minute I saw the ancient Egyptian art I was struck with the beauty of the sculptures, reliefs and amulets. But I was most fascinated by the hieroglyphic writing. To me these mysterious signs had a great beauty combined with magic; ever since then my love for Egyptian art has continued.

“To this day I believe every ancient work of art is a messenger from the past and gives us the opportunity to travel back in history like in a time-machine. Through art we perhaps gain the most direct and personal access to history and its long lost cultures; often we realize that the beliefs, fears, thoughts and hopes of people living 4000 years ago were not all that different from ours today. While Greek and Roman art are usually considered to be the direct ancestors or forerunners of today’s European art, Egypt and the cultures of the Euphrates should be considered as being the ‘grandparents.’

“I find it most inspiring to have clients tell me how well ancient art and especially Egyptian art works when combined with certain modern works in their homes. Egyptian sculptures may look ‘stiff’ at first glance, but they are not – the rendering of anatomical details is sophisticated and is often not visible on the surface, the true qualities of good Egyptian art are slightly hidden and below the surface – often Egyptian art has the aura of the mysterious and the magical.”

A board member of IADAA, (International Association of Dealers in Ancient Art), and The Swiss Association of Dealers in Art & Antiques (SADAA) and, Dr. Bigler says his commitment to maintain a strict code of ethics is underscored by the quality of the research he does on each object he sells.

“I do extensive research so that I can provide the buyer with a maximum of information; learning and knowing more not only automatically leads to a better understanding of a culture, and its remains, but usually also to higher appreciation! When required or necessary, every object will be carefully cleaned, sometimes restored and/or re-mounted so that it not only can be preserved for future generations, but can also be presented in the best possible way. Each buyer is given a full documentation guaranteeing authenticity.”

Bigler maintains an academically rigorous schedule combining scholarship with exhibitions. His next project is a book relating to the art historical development of the “Tibeto-Chinese” style of Buddhist metal images based on the Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet, but produced in China.
“As I approach the 20th anniversary of my business, I see how much I have come to enjoy working individually with collectors to help them build fine collections of these important examples of ancient Egyptian and Asian art. It’s a very satisfying way to combine my academic training and aesthetic passion.”

Friday Nov 8 – Wednesday Nov 13
Reithalle Wenkenhof Basel Switzerland

Category: Sculpture

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