Going for bust with a £96,000 bid in Essex auction

The marble bust of an emperor that sold for £96,000 at Sworders.

This Italian marble bust of an emperor, catalogued as 17th century after the antique, provided a moment of saleroom drama at Sworders’ Fine Interiors auction in Stansted on September 10.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Roland Arkell

The marble bust of an emperor that sold for £96,000 at Sworders.

The 21in (52cm) bust sold to a bidder in the room against a phone bidder at £96,000 (plus 23% buyer’s premium). Estimated at £3000-5000, bidding had opened at £10,000.

The vendor – ‘a prominent West Country collector’ – had acquired the bust in 1984. It came from Glenthorne House which once belonged to the Halliday family in Devon and it is possible that this bust, and another 18th century marble bust of Socrates sold at £21,000, were in the house since the 19th century.

The head had very obvious signs of repair: the nose, mouth and ears have been broken and repaired or replaced and the plinth was missing a significant section to the rear. However, it was of obvious quality. Before the sale many different opinions regarding its date were voiced, ranging from 17th century to Roman or ancient Greek.

The buyer, who travelled to Sworders to bid in person, believed it was the head of the Greek playwright Aristophanes, also known as ‘the father of comedy’.