Roman emperor Antoninus Pius

A 2nd century marble portrait bust of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius – £6.5m at Sotheby’s.

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Sotheby’s Ancient Sculpture and Works of Art sale on December 6 was billed as including ‘two sculptures reflective of great rulers from antiquity’: a gypsum alabaster foundation plaque commissioned by the storied Assyrian king Tukulti Ninurta I (c.1233-1197BC) and a monumental 2nd century marble portrait bust of the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius.

However, the plaque offered with a guide of £1.5m-2.5m was withdrawn from sale.

From an American private collection - and on exhibition at The Morgan Library & Museum, New York since 2008, it was first acquired by Dr Eddy Charles Schacht (1872-1952) of Baden Baden in the summer of 1917 from Sheikh Selim on a ride from Assur to Hatra.

When asked for comment, a spokesman for Sotheby’s said: “The lot was withdrawn at the request of the consignor.”

Bought on honeymoon

The 3ft 3in (97cm) bust of Antoninus Pius, one of the so-called Five Good Emperors who reigned from 138-161AD, came for sale from the Berkeley Collection at Spetchley Park, Worcestershire.

It had been acquired by Robert Martin Berkeley (1823-97) and Lady Mary Catherine Berkeley (1829-1924) while honeymooning in Italy in 1851. They paid £44 2s for it from the Naples dealer Raffaelle Barone.

A striking front cover lot to the catalogue, it was guided at £600,000-900,000 but raced away to bring £6.5m.