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The statue, which is a late Roman copy of an Hellenistic original, dates from the first-mid second century AD with 18th century restorations and was offered for sale by the Compton family from Newby Hall, North Yorkshire, where it has been since it was brought back from the Grand Tour in the 18th century by William Weddell.

The proceeds from its sale will be used to pay for restoration at the house. The statue, also known as the Barberini and Jenkins Venus after two of its earlier 18th century owners, is a well-known published piece that combines academic and decorative appeal with an impressive provenance, all of which combined to take it to three times Christie’s predictions.

The two-way battle to secure it was between the fine art agent Oliver Forge, acting for a client, and an anonymous telephone bidder acting through William Robinson, Christie’s head of Carpets and Islamic works of art, with the telephone winning out. The price surpassed the previous auction high of £7m paid at Christie’s in 1994 for an Assyrian bas-relief made between 883 and 859BC.

The Venus was the most dramatic result in a week of concentrated activity in the London rooms as the auctioneers packed in a busy schedule timed to coincide with the major London fairs and the height of the summer season.

The sheer volume of fine art and antique events concentrated into last week was reflected by the high proportion of purchasing that was done over the telephone.

Amongst the other sales taking place were furniture, works of art, paintings and books from Longleat, Wiltshire, offered in a series of three sales at Christie’s, and auctions of Continental furnishings and of British pictures at both Sotheby’s and Christie’s.

The three Longleat sessions on June 13 and 14 netted £23m hammer with a Renaissance illuminated manuscript of Virgil’s Eclogues, Georgics and the Aeneid topping the million mark at £1.2m.

The £5.34m British picture sale at Sotheby’s on June 13 chalked up a new auction record for a Thomas Gainsborough when his portrait of Colonel John Bullock fetched £2.4m.
Key to success at Christie’s British art sale on June 12 was the market-fresh Bunting Collection of works by Sir Alfred Munnings, which contributed £5.2m to the £8.2m total. Ex-Christie’s silver expert Stephen Clarke was a prominent Munnings buyer, paying £1.65m for the 1910 oil The Ford, while London agent Titus Kendall gave a further £1.4m for Coming through the Gap. Both were bidding on mobile phones for a buyer widely tipped to be the Geneva-based racehorse breeder John Magnier.
q CHRISTIE’S have announced that they have successfully sold by private treaty the watercolour drawings of tours to the Isle of Wight by Thomas Rowlandson, Samuel Howitt and other artists from the collection of Beriah Botfield at Longleat.
The buyer is the Isle of Wight Museum Service.