An ancient Roman marble statue dubbed the Hamilton Aphrodite sold for £18.6 Million ($24.6 million) during a single-lot sale at Sotheby’s in London on Tuesday. The result for the sculpture was 9 times the £2 million ($2.7 million) low estimate. It set a record for the most ever paid for an ancient marble sculpture, according to the auction house.
After 5 bidders competed for the work in a 20 minute-long battle during the live sale at Sotheby’s London headquarters, the work hammered on a final bid of $16 million placed by an Asian collector. The anonymous buyer was bidding on the telephone with Sotheby’s client liaison and European client strategy representative, Nicole Ching.
Before Tuesday’s sale, the marble sculpture, which dates back to the 1st or 2nd century C.E., had not been seen by the public since it was last sold in 1949. The sculpture had formerly resided at the 8th Duke of Hamilton’s Scotland estate, known as Hamilton Palace, where it had been held for 144 years.
In 1920, it passed through the hands of London-based dealers Spink and Son, who sold it to American publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Hearst kept a trove of antiquities in his homes in Wales, California, and elsewhere, but stored this statue along with the bulk his art collection in a five-story Bronx warehouse before it was sold to a New York art dealer 30 years later.
Though the current result surpassed the previous milestone price of $23.8 million paid for a Roman marble bust in 2010, it still is far shy of the record set for an antiquity sold publicly. In December 2007, Sotheby’s sold a limestone figure of a lioness dating back to 3000 B.C. for $57.2 million, setting the highest price achieved for an ancient work of art sold at auction.