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
Antique Parian Bust c1860
"Cesare Ottaviano" Bust in Terracotta Italian School, Early 20th Century
Parian Bust Of Marie Antoinette Of Very Large Proportion
Majolica Bust c1865
Best Modern Busts
Veiled Lady Bust
Athena Bust Statue
Theo Greek Bust
Black & White Bust Bookends
Diana Bust Sculpture
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