Scottish council buys 18th century bust for $6. Now it could sell for $3 million
An 18th century bust bought for £5 ($6) nearly 100 years ago by a Scottish town council could sell for more than £2.5 million ($3 million).
The bust of landowner and lawmaker John Gordon was sculpted by noted French artist Edmé Bouchardon.
Now, local politicians on Invergordon Town Council are weighing up whether to sell the item, described by Sotheby’s as “brilliant in execution,” according to a council report.
A private individual has already approached Sotheby’s with an offer to purchase the sculpture, the report said, adding that Sotheby’s experts believe it has reached its peak value.
Members of the council will decide the bust’s future on Monday, a statement said, and funds from the sale could then be used to “reactivate” the Invergordon Common Good Fund, for the “benefit of the community,” the report added, though a full consultation with the community would precede any sale.
First displayed in the town hall, the bust was initially valued not for the talent of its sculptor but for its depiction of Gordon, who was said to be the founder of Invergordon – the small Scottish coastal town situated about 300 kilometers (180 miles) north of the capital Edinburgh.
Using a style not widely popularized until many years later, Bouchardon sculpted the bust in 1728while he was a resident in Rome and Gordon was on his Grand Tour, a European tour undertaken by young, aristocratic and predominantly English men in the 18th and 19th centuries that served as a rite of passage.
Among his other accomplishments, Bouchardon was a sculptor to Louis XV and his 17-foot sculpture of the French king used to stand in the Place de la Concorde in Paris before it was destroyed during the French Revolution.
Despite its illustrious creator, there are few details publicly available about where the bust has been since it was purchased by the council.
According to one local councilor, the sculpture was found on an industrial estate in 1998. Maxine Smith told The Scotsmann in 2016 that she stumbled upon the bust 25 years ago when it was being used to hold open a door while she was searching for old robes.
“I managed to get the key from the council. I found the robes and there was this bust just propping the door open,” she said.
“The insurance team got in and we found that it was worth so much money. Back then it was worth about £200,000.”
Once the bust was rediscovered and identified, it was displayed at both the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the council said.
Back in Scotland, however, it remains under secure storage in Inverness Museum & Art Gallery due to the security risks of displaying it.