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Buying and collecting antique busts

You can't help but notice an arresting face. Here's how to collect antique busts...

Published: July 8th, 2022 at 10:00 am

Three-dimensional portraits – busts – are so much more lifelike than a painting and make an intriguing and dramatic statement in the home. These detailed sculptures of a person’s head, shoulders and chest date back as far as ancient Egypt and originally had a funerary context – they were a way of commemorating the dead.


The way in which the male sitter was 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).

Busts tend to be fashioned from materials used for sculpture, such as marble, bronze, terracotta, plaster, stone, alabaster and wood. Antique busts portrayed 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).

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 last December against a £100 to £700 estimate, and Philip Mould is currently selling a mid to late 18th-century portrait bust of Alexander Pope for £18,500.

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.

Best Antique Busts

19th Century Bronze Bust Of Diane De Houdon, Signed Bulio

19th century bronze bust

Buy 19th Century Bust from Selling Antiques (£3,800)

Antique Parian Bust c1860

Antique Parian Busts

Buy Antique Parian Bust from The Hoarde (£595)

"Cesare Ottaviano" Bust in Terracotta Italian School, Early 20th Century

Terracotta Bust

Buy Terracotta Bust from 1st Dibs (£2,543.80)

Parian Bust Of Marie Antoinette Of Very Large Proportion

Marie Antoinette bust

Buy Parian Bust of Marie Antoinette from Selling Antiques (£2,200)

Majolica Bust c1865

Majolica Busts

Buy Majolica Bust from The Hoarde (£845)

Best Modern Busts

Veiled Lady Bust

Veiled Lady Bust

Buy Veiled Lady Bust from Etsy (£181.96)

Athena Bust Statue

Athena Bust Statue

Buy Athena Bust Statue from Etsy (£43.99)

Theo Greek Bust

Theo Greek Bust

Buy Theo Greek Bust from Where Saints Go (£37)

Black & White Bust Bookends

Bust bookends

Buy Black & White Bust Bookends from Rockett St George (£45)

Diana Bust Sculpture

Diana Bust Sculpture

Buy Diana Bust Sculpture from The Ancient Home (£137)


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