The two Sphinx statues sold for £195,000 at Mander.

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Consigned to Mander Auctioneers, they had been sitting in a garden near Clare in Suffolk among various statues. The vendors, with the help of a local builder, had used cement to restore one of the heads.

According to the family who sold them, they had been purchased at a Country House sale in East Anglia around 15 years ago for a few hundred pounds as 18th century items acquired during a Grand Tour.

James Mander said: “We have not as yet been able to track down the previous sale or date and I presumed they were from the Grand Tour era as they had sold through another much larger auction house relatively recently so I did not question them any further.

“There was some interest prior to the auction during the viewing, but really we had no indication of their value until the auction began. The bidding started at £200 and it took 15 minutes, with competition from four phone bidders and numerous internet buyers.”

Mander added: “This was an exciting day at the auction. The opinion was that they were genuine ancient Egyptian examples, which had somehow passed through recent history as 18th century copies.

“However, another bidder believed them to be Roman. The vendors had enjoyed these as garden ornaments for many years, with no idea of their true value.”

Pair of Sphinxes

The pair of Sphinxes – £195,000 at Mander.

Offered in the October 8-9 Architectural & Interiors sale in Newton Green, Sudbury, an international art gallery was the successful bidder at £195,000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium).

It is not unheard of for 18th or 19th centurycatalogued statuary offered at auction to be deemed ancient pieces by bidders.

For example, in September 2018 a bust offered with an estimate of £120-180 at Sheffield Auction Gallery was knocked down at £129,000 with the buyer believing it to be a Roman bust (as reported in ATG No 2362).

In February 2020 a marble bust, cautiously catalogued as a late 18th century Grand Tour piece, was deemed to be ancient with later additions and sold for £320,000 at Adam Partridge in Macclesfield (ATG No 2432).