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Broken Roman emperor bust sells for £160,000 at Sheffield auction

The Roman bust sold for nearly 160,000 at a Sheffield auction.
The Roman bust sold for nearly 160,000 at a Sheffield auction.

A broken bust of a Roman emperor found in a house clearance has sold for £160,000 at an auction in Sheffield.

Despite having a huge crack in its neck, the 2ft marble bust of the first Roman emperor Augustus went under the hammer for £157,000 at Sheffield Auction Gallery.

Interest in the item, discovered during a house clearance in West Yorkshire, sparked a bidding war – and the statue was only expected to sell for £10,000.

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Experts also believed the item dated from the 19th century, but the global interest suggests it is older.

The anonymous successful bidder paid a hammer price of £129,000 but with fees, the total was £157,000.

Liz Dashper-Johnson, of Sheffield Auction Gallery, said: ‘We did not anticipate just what an important piece it would prove to be.

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“Silence fell across the auction room. An initial bid of £3,200 was the start of an intense international bidding war between the internet and telephone bidders, which were, one by one, left by the wayside until only one telephone bidder and a buyer in the room were left to fight it out to a final hammer price of £129,000 plus 22.2% buyers premium.

“This Roman statesman has produced a new in-house record for this type of item at the Gallery.

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“It became obvious prior to the auction from the level of interest shown that this Lot had enormous potential.

Entries for the next specialist fine art auction on 29th and 30th November are now invited.