Busts are certainly having a moment, with shops across the high street and luxury brands creating their own versions of the historic statues. From iconic Greek gods and goddesses to vibrant coloured figures, the market is full of these fabulous decorative items. But busts stem back centuries, with only the wealthy being able to afford one...
What is an antique bust?
A bust is essentially a three-dimensional portrait, but it is much more lifelike than a painting and make an intriguing and dramatic statement in the home. Depicting a person's head, shoulders and chest, busts date back as far as ancient Egypt and originally had a funerary context – they were a way of commemorating the dead.
Historically, only men would have had busts created of them and the way in which they were portrayed often signified his professional or aristocratic status. Women were more rarely depicted, although this changed later on (there were many busts made of Queen Victoria). Antique busts portray various subjects, including royalty, politicians, popes, Roman emperors, poets, composers and characters from antiquity, from Napoleon Bonaparte to Honoré de Balzac (the famed bust by Auguste Rodin).
What are antique busts made from?
Busts tend to be fashioned from materials used for sculpture, such as marble, bronze, terracotta, plaster, stone, alabaster and wood.
How much are antique busts?
As with many antiques, prices depend on material, age, condition, maker and provenance. In the case of busts, their value also depends on the person who is depicted. A bronze portrait bust of Lady Thatcher by Neil Simmons sold for £15,000 at Christie’s against a £100 to £700 estimate. There are, of course, more affordable options on the market and some of these are Victorian, which often come up at auction and in fashionable antiques shops these days.