Bonhams estimated it at £25,000-35,000. Instead, it sold to a British private collector at £1.5m (£1.7m including premium).
The bust returned to Bonhams almost 15 years later on February 1 as a single lot in an online sale. The guide this time was £200,000-300,000 and the winning bid £650,000 (£802,750 including premium).
Duleep Singh (1838-93) is a key figure in Sikh history and remains the subject of veneration. The son of Ranjit Singh, the so-called Lion of the Punjab, he was destined to be the last ruler of the Sikh empire, his fate to live in ‘gilded cage’ exile as a British aristocrat in Norfolk.
Duleep sat for this marble bust in 1859 when visiting Rome where Gibson (1790-1866), the most successful British sculptor of his generation, was based.
The bust stayed with the maharajah’s family, passing to his second son Frederick then his daughters Sophia and Bamba.
It appears to have remained in Norfolk at least until the 1970s, then surfaced at Sotheby’s in a Victorian picture sale in 1985 where it realised £4200.