The marble bust probably depicting Alexander the Great sold for £320,000 at the auction in Macclesfield on February 22, way above the £600-1000 estimate.
Although cautiously catalogued as a late-18th century Grand Tour piece, the bust was deemed to be ancient with later additions.
“Two weeks before the sale it became clear we were dealing with something potentially a lot older than we had first thought,” said valuer Sophie Harral. The buyer, an international gallery, was one of 16 phone bidders. With 20% buyer’s premium added the purchase price was around £385,000.
The youthful, clean-shaven subject is probably the Macedonian general Alexander (356-323BC) depicted in heroic manner wearing the lion cowl of Hercules.
Excluding the later socle base, it measured 15in (38cm) high. It was variously thought to be Hellenistic or possibly a Roman copy.
The bust came with a good provenance. It had once been part of the garden furnishings at Sutton Place, the Italianate Tudor mansion in Guildford built by Sir Richard Weston, courtier to Henry VIII. In modern times, the estate has had a series of wealthy owners, including the Duke of Sutherland (1919), John Paul Getty (1959), Stanley Seeger (1980) and Frederick Koch (1990).
The vendor was thought to be Seeger’s former personal assistant who had been given it after it was discovered during garden restoration in the 1980s.
The previous house record for Adam Partridge was the £210,000 bid in 2013 for a copy of the Passover Haggadah written and illuminated by the celebrated early-18th century scribe Aaron Wolf Herlingen.