Collector Chris Levett Is Selling His Huge Trove of Ancient Armor to Fund His Museum’s Rebrand

The second auction of Levett's collection of artifacts is estimated to make more than $3.4 million.

The Guttmann Mouse Helmet. Photo courtesy of Christie's Images Ltd, 2023.

A large collection of ancient arms and armor from the collection of the Mougins Museum of Classical Art in France is being sold at auction to fund the private institution’s rebrand. The auction is scheduled for January 30 at Christie’s New York and will include 40 lots from the museum’s collection of artifacts. The sale is estimated to rake in between $3.4 million and $5.1 million.

The Mougins Museum of Classical Art was founded in 2011 by commodities trader-turned-art collector Christian Levett, who discussed the institution’s upcoming revamp as the Femmes Artistes du Musée de Mougins (Women Artists of the Mougins Museum) in an interview with Artnet News’s Sarah Cascone in October 2023. The new museum is slated to launch in June this year.

“Hopefully visiting a museum where all the artworks have been by female artists makes [visitors] stop and think, ‘How did we ever reach a point where so little of the work on the walls of museums or in auctions was by female artists?'” he said. “That’s really what I want people to think.”

A Roman cavalry helmet. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd, 2023.

This latest auction is the second sale of the Mougins’s collection, following “Ancient to Modern Art from the Mougins Museum of Classical Art, Part I” at Christie’s London, which fetched £4.3 million ($5.4 million) in December 2023. Highlights of that sale had included a £730,800 ($924,396) sculpture by Antony Gormley and a £567,000 ($717,317) sculpture by Damien Hirst.

In total, the museum’s previous collection is being sold through six sales at Christie’s with works from ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, as well as Neo-Classicist masterpieces and contemporary artworks hitting the block. In total, around 400 lots are up for sale through the six auctions. But the sale of the ancient arms and armor is noteworthy because Levett’s collection is the largest in private hands.

A Greek bronze Corinthian helmet. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd, 2023.

“My collecting habits have changed,” Levett explained in October, “so now it’s time to let these go to new homes of people who are busting with enthusiasm about antiquities and classical artworks.”

His favorite of the pieces in the upcoming auction is the Guttmann Mouse helmet, believed to date from between 125–175 C.E., he told the Art Newspaper. The helmet design includes the depiction of two small mice climbing up the back. It was previously loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which said the original owner, one Julius Mansuetus, was likely an officer. It is estimated to sell for between $1 million and $1.5 million.

The Thetis Fragment. Photo courtesy of Christie’s Images Ltd, 2023.

Other top lots include a Greek bronze Corinthian helmet and a Roman iron and tinned bronze cavalry helmet, each estimated to sell for between $300,000 to $500,000, as well as a Roman sheet brass helmet of Weisenau type estimated at between $250,000 and $350,000. The Thétis Fragment, a fragmentary Greek bronze inscribed back-plate from an anatomical cuirass, is estimated to fetch between $150,000-250,000.

 

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