An ancient Roman marble statue dubbed the Hamilton Aphrodite will come to auction next month. Depicting a nude Aphrodite, it will be offered at Sotheby’s in London on December 7 during a single-lot sale. It is expected to fetch £2 million–£3 million ($2.7 million–$4 million).
The life-size marble, which dates back to the 1st or 2nd century CE, and has gone unseen since it was last sold, in 1949. Until 1919, it resided at the 8th Duke of Hamilton’s Scotland estate, known as Hamilton Palace, where it had been held for 144 years. The statue was one of four ancient marbles kept in the palace’s halls. A U.S. museum and a private collector hold two of them, though the location of the third is currently unknown.
The Duke of Hamilton purchased the statue in 1776 from Scottish art dealer Gavin Hamilton. “The Duke of Hamilton fell in love with it the moment he saw it, and secured it immediately,” the dealer wrote. The sculpture , underwent extensive restorations in the 18th-century, with its head replaced by another from a later statue.
The Duke was not the only formidable figure to own the piece. In 1920, it passed through the hands of London-based dealers Spink and Son, who sold it to American publishing mogul William Randolph Hearst. Although Hearst kept many antiquities in his sprawling homes in Wales, California, and elsewhere, he stored this statue along with much of his art collection in a five-story Bronx warehouse.
Sotheby’s said the piece may have been stowed away for nearly two decades before the New York–based art dealer Joseph Brummer purchased it. In 1949, the marble entered the art market once again, when it was sold with Brummer’s estate at Parke-Bernet in New York.
About seven years ago, Sotheby’s representatives received notice from the current seller, asking for the work’s appraisal. The house’s specialists recognized it as a marble from Hamilton Palace. “I also fell under her spell the moment I laid my eyes on her,” said Sotheby’s head of antiquities, Florent Heintz, in a statement. “I hope that the public will share the same experience.”
The sculpture will be exhibited to the public at Sotheby’s London headquarters from December 3–7.