The sculpture was of a longhaired male figure, which had been in the collection of the Earls of Pembroke in their Salisbury home for more than 200 years.
Now, for the first time since the 1960s, the marble is back on the market but this time in Italy, and without its head.
The semi-draped figure, which depicts Bonus Eventus, god of good fortune and success, dates back to the 2nd century AD and stands 6½ft (1.98m) high. It is currently on display at Aeterna: The Dream of Rome in Flemish Art I the XVI and XVII Centuries, where Milanese dealership Cavagnis Lacerenza offers it for just under €1m.
Dealers Giovanni Lacerenza and Giulia Cavagnis told ATG that they came across the statue practically forgotten under a tree in the garden of an Italian villa, where it had been placed by the successful bidder in that 1961 Christie’s auction.
The marble has been a source of research since the 18th century when Thomas Pembroke first attempted to identify it. In 1945, a later Earl of Pembroke was photographed next to the sculpture, which towers over him in situ in the garden of Wilton House.
The gallery added that “given the exceptional quality and history of the sculpture” the Bonus Eventus has been declared an object of National Interest by the Italian Ministry of Culture and is therefore prohibited from export.
However, it seems unlikely to be reunited with its head, which appears to have resurfaced back at Wilton House.
According to Cavagnis Lacerenza, the sculpture was complete until 2007 when it was beheaded. Despite the family contacting the police, the head was never recovered.
Wilton House catalogue
While researching the collection, however, the dealers spotted the head on the cover of A Catalogue of the Sculpture Collection of Wilton House by Peter Stewart, which was published in 2020. Inside it stated that the head in question had been purchased at an auction and that the location of the body was unknown.
The provenance of the head was listed in the catalogue as reportedly being in a French private collection in 2008 and at an auction in Cologne in 2011, at which point it entered the Wilton House Collection.
Cavagnis Lacerenza said that it contacted Wilton House for more information in May 2022 and was informed that the head remains in the collection on loan.
Wilton House was contacted by ATG but declined to comment.
The Aeterna exhibition runs until January 7 at the Colonna Resort & Spa. It was organised by Caretto Occhinegro and showcases a selection of Flemish Old Master paintings from that firm alongside three sculptures provided by Cavagnis.