Brought into the saleroom from a West Yorkshire house clearance, along with a number of lesser pieces of stone sculpture, it was catalogued as mid-19th century and given an estimate of just £120-180.
A consensus emerged that at least significant elements of the 2ft (60cm) high bust, which was broken and repaired to the neck, were from the Roman period. The subject is thought to be the first Roman emperor, Augustus (27BC-AD14).
International bidding at the September 21 sale, that began at £3200, came online and on the phone, before one phone bidder and the buyer in the room were left to fight it out. With the 18.5% premium and VAT added, the buyer paid close to £157,000. The price is a house record for the Sheffield firm.
“Although we expected a significant increase on the initial estimate, we did not anticipate just what an important piece it would prove to be,” said director Liz Dashper-Johnson.