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Whitchurch auction house sees Roman marble bust sell for £27,000 in knockout sale

A Roman marble bust fetched £27,000 at a new year’s auction.

Christina Trevanion with the Roman marble bust which sold for £27,000
Christina Trevanion with the Roman marble bust which sold for £27,000

The bust was part of a sale of art and antiquities from the Alison Barker estate which was run by Whitchurch-based Trevanion Auctioneers. In total the auction was the highest grossing January sale since 2014.

At the heart of the auction was the Alison Barker estate, a collection of art and antiquities from a long-term collector from Sussex.

Managing partner and founder Christina Trevanion said: “Alison was an incredible woman. She was a successful barrister, and a lifetime collector of the curious, the carved and the archaic.

“I had the pleasure of meeting her in 2019 when she personally gave me a guided tour of her collection. Walking into her Chichester town house was a little like walking into a carefully curated – and very full – private museum. It has been an honour and a privilege to handle and catalogue the contents of her home, in her memory.”

Some of the best results of the day came from a selection of Roman marble carvings, which drew the attention of antiquity collectors and classical art dealers from across the globe.

Associate director, Ashley Jones, said: “Classical sculpture, especially Greek and Roman marbles, are incredibly sought after in the current market, both for their decorative merit and their historical importance. We have seen that the demand for such pieces from seasoned dealers and new, emerging millennial collectors has soared over recent years, the results from our auction reinforce this."

The top result was taken by a much sought-after Roman marble bust depicting the top half of a torso with beautifully detailed draped tunic.

Roman marble bust

Many bidders travelled from across the country to bid for the bust live in the saleroom. In the end however, the battle to own it came down to an online bidder and a phone bidder, with the piece eventually selling to a London-based antiquities collector for an astonishing £27,000.

“This piece is reflective of the dominant presence that portraiture held in the Roman Empire," added Ashley.

"Grown from the traditional emphasis on family, worship, and ancestors, displaying busts and life-size models of Emperors and Gods became ubiquitous within the Roman State. This particular piece is believed to date from circa 2nd Century A.D, and despite not supporting a head, it is an important representation of its period."

Other lots of note included a trapezophoros carved as a griffin, which achieved £6,700 and a carved stone head which sold for £4,000.

Following the success of the antiquities section, the auction moved swiftly on with a collection of paintings, many inspired by some of the greatest artists of the 16th and 17th centuries.

Picture valuer Simon Grover, explained: "There was a tremendous amount of pre-sale interest across the board for this collection, but one of the most curious lots was a small portrait of notorious monarch Henry VIII, by a follower of Tudor court painter Hans Holbein the younger.

"Holbein’s original was created as part of a larger mural which once hung in the palace of Whitehall, and many copies were commissioned by nobles as a show of loyalty, or gifted by the King himself to friends and ambassadors.

A portrait of King Henry VIII, by a follower of Tudor court painter Hans Holbein the younger, which sold for £5,000

"The original was destroyed in the fire of Whitehall in 1698, but thanks to these copies, the picture has become without doubt one of the most iconic images of Henry VIII, and one of the most famous portraits of any British monarch.

"Alison’s copy appears to have been cut from a larger work, possibly to save Henry’s head from retribution by Mary Tudor when she came to power, and the portrait was not without fault, with parts being “unskillfully restored” as the historic label on the reverse noted! However, it was a unique opportunity to purchase an iconic image from British history.”

The portrait sold to a collector in the room for £5,000, and was followed by an attractive pair of portraits depicting a noble lady and gentleman in the manner of Flemish artist Sir Anthony Van Dyck, which sold for £3,200, and a distinctive 17th century portrait of an enigmatic lady drinking from a vessel, which achieved £2,200.

Reflecting on the success of the auction, Alison’s nephew James said: “The auction was the perfect tribute to our beloved Aunt Alison, a unique and wonderful lady.

"The family have all been blown away to see how expertly and carefully her varied and eclectic estate has been displayed and sold under the hammer, and its popularity is testament to her lifetime passion of collecting. We hope the new custodians of her pieces will enjoy them as much as she did."

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