15-02-25-2180NE01A David Lay.jpg
The ancient Egyptian bronze cat head – £52,000 at David Lay.

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In a story which attracted extensive media coverage, the life-sized 7in (18cm) high artefact was discovered in front of a gas fire during the house clearance of a local cottage. The owners, who had inherited the piece after the recent death of a relative, were unaware if its value and had been about to throw it in a skip.

Auctioneer David Lay took the work to the British Museum where it was authenticated and dated to the 26th dynasty (c.700-500BC), while further research linked the artefact to Douglas Liddell, the managing director of Spink & Sons from 1976-87. He was a close relation of the vendors and owned it on retiring to Cornwall. Mr Liddell died in 2003.

Market-fresh, in good condition and with the all-important traceable provenance, it was bound to attract interest at the auction on February 19.

On the day, frenzied phone bidding ensured it easily passed its conservative £5000-10,000 guide to sell to a London dealer for £52,000, amid a round of applause in the room.

The buyer's premium was 15%.