funerary statue of a Roman poet
A porter admires a funerary statue of a Roman poet, 3ft 9in (1.15m) high, that sold for £3.5m at Sotheby’s.

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1. Statue of a Roman poet – £3.5m

Sotheby’s sale of Ancient Sculpture & Works of Art on December 4 was dominated by the performance of a marble funerary portrait statue from c.50BC.

Originally thought to be a likeness of Virgil, this rare statue of a professional poet of the early years of the Roman Empire was discovered before the First World War and passed went through the hands of dealers in Italy and the US before entering the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York, in 1936.

funerary statue of a Roman poet

A porter admires a funerary statue of a Roman poet, 3ft 9in (1.15m) high, that sold for £3.5m at Sotheby’s.

Sold as part of the Albright-Knox collection at Sotheby’s New York in 2007 for a multi-estimate $2.05m (including premium), it has been on view at the Antikenmuseum in Basel for the past decade as the property of Hans Humbel of Swiss dealership Galerie Arete.

Offered in London 11 years after its last appearance at auction, it improved on a £1.5-2m estimate to sell at £3.5m.

2. Ferdinando Tacca bronze – £260,000

The £2.5m sale titled Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art at Sotheby’s on December 4 included a previously unrecorded version of one of Ferdinando Tacca's (1619-86) rarest models, Apollo and Daphne.

Ferdinando Tacca bronze

Sotheby’s Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art on December 4 included this bronze of Apollo and Daphne (c.1640-50) attributed to Ferdinando Tacca. It sold at £260,000.

The 17in (45cm) two-figure bronze from c.1640-50 came to auction from a UK private collection and appeared to be only the second version of the model to come to light – the other being in the Louvre.

It sold towards the top end of expectations at £260,000.

The selling rate across the 121 lots at the sale was 70%.

3. Cincinnato Baruzzi bust – £250,000

‘Bust of a Muse’ by Cincinnato Baruzzi

‘Bust of a Muse’ by Cincinnato Baruzzi after Antonio Canova, 23in (58cm) high – £250,000 at Sotheby’s sale of Old Master Sculpture & Works of Art.

This serene 23in (58cm) marble Bust of a Muse was carved by Cincinnato Baruzzi (1796-78), director of Antonio Canova’s workshop after his master’s death.

It copies one of Canova’s Teste Ideali (Ideal Heads) which were given by the sculptor as gifts to friends and patrons – one of which, the rediscovered Bust of Peace, sold at Sotheby’s in July at £4.5m.

At the latest Sotheby’s sale on December 4, the Baruzzi marble sold at £250,000.

4. Andrea Della Robbia relief – £240,000

relief by Andrea Della Robbia

‘The Virgin with the Christ Child’, a relief by Andrea Della Robbia, c.1485, 18 x 12in (46 x 33cm) – £240,000 at Christie’s sale of European Sculpture & Works of Art.

Estimated at £80,000-120,000, a textbook blue and white terracotta devotional relief of the Virgin and Child by Andrea Della Robbia from c.1485 topped Christie’s £1.37m sale of European Sculpture & Works of Art on December 4.

It sold at £240,000.

Among the artist's most successful compositions, it came from a private collection in France where it had been since at least 1870. The sale was 81% sold by lot.

5. Ancient Egyptian relief – £280,000

Egyptian Late Period quartzite relief

A 2ft 1in (64cm) wide Egyptian Late Period quartzite relief of Horus and a goddess suckling a king – £280,000 at Christie’s December 5 sale of Antiquities.

A 2ft 1in (64cm) wide Egyptian Late Period quartzite relief of Horus and a goddess suckling a king from the 26th-30th Dynasty (c.664-332BC) led the December 5 sale of Antiquities at Christie’s with a double-estimate bid of £280,000.

Collected by celebrated Swiss archaeologist Gustave Jéquier (1868-1946) and thence by descent, it had last sold at Christie’s New York in 2008 for $266,500 (including premium).