Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Although works by Cheere are not often seen on the market, Sotheby’s had sold his 10ft 6in (3.2m) marble monument to Sir George Cooke, that had previously stood in Sir Elton John’s garden, for a low-estimate £250,000 in their December 12 Bond Street sale. According to Cheffins auctioneer Jonathan Law, this was taken into account when Cheffins consulted outside expertise to assess this seated pair of Vulcan and Venus that stand 201/2in (52cm) and 211/2in (55cm) high respectively.

Consigned from Papworth Hall, Cambridgeshire – built in 1809 by Charles Madryll Cheere, who married Sir Henry’s granddaughter and later assumed his name – the pair are both signed, Vulcan with Cheere Fect and Venus with Cheere Fec. Both figures were catalogued as “rather dusty and surface marked”, and both had some damage, especially Venus, who had suffered a broken neck and five breaks to her right arm and hair, as well as damage to her left toes and a crack to her left ankle. Her base also showed damage around the sides.

Taking all these factors into consideration, Cheffins had settled on what Mr Law conceded was a very conservative estimate of £5000-8000.

On the day, however, with a mix of trade and privates bidding on 11 phones and in the room, it was clear they would do rather better. Having said that, no-one expected the final record bid of £450,000 from a UK private buyer, which with 15% buyer’s premium and VAT took the final bill close to £530,000.

Even without the add-ons, this ranks at the top of provincial prices, alongside the Sèvres swan-neck vases that made £500,000 at Lacy Scott & Knight in Bury St Edmunds in March 1999, Adam van Breen’s 17th century frozen river scene, which made £440,000 at Mellors & Kirk of Nottingham in January 2001, and William Logsdail’s The Bank & Royal Exchange, which made £420,000 at Hy Duke & Sons of Dorset in July 1998.