Treasures belonging to the Duke of Northumberland auctioned off to plug a hole in his finances fetched £32m.
The sale at Sotheby’s was considered one of the finest art and furniture auctions ever held by an aristocratic family in Europe and brought in significantly more than expected.
The paintings raised £17m and treasures fetched £15m.
French, Italian as well as English buyers flooded the hall at the auction house at New Bond Street in London to marvel at the Duke’s collection which also included rare ceramic paintings previously on display at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland which went for £1.5m.
Many items went to private bidders stood silently at the back of the room, however, the sale’s show stopper, a 1st century Aphrodite sculpture went for almost £10m after a fierce bidding war won by an Italian lady on behalf of a client she spoke to over the phone.
Asian and Russian buyers were also keen to snap up the items, many of which have never been on sale before.
The auction comes as the Estate seeks to balance its books having been hit with a repair bill of around £12m as a result of the flooding which hit Newburn, in Newcastle, in 2012.
The paintings, sculptures and furniture all come from two of the Duke’s residences Alnwick Castle in Northumberland and Syon House outside London.
Cabinets, many of which were bought on the 1st Duke and Duchess’ Grand Tour in Italy in 1773, are the finest of their type in the world and fetched £320,000.
However, a chest of drawers kept at Alnwick Castle even brought a smile to the face of the auctioneer as it’s eventual sale price hit £1.5m after a battle between two bidders on the phone.
Art masterpieces sold in a separate sale included Jan Brueghel the Elder’s The Garden of Eden from 1613 went for £6m and a painting of a Mohawk war chieftain went for £3m - twice its estimate.
The Duke hopes to use the money he raises from this sale to pay a substantial repair bill following the collapse of homes in Newburn when a culvert caved in on land owned by his estate.
The money for the repairs was initially found from funds which had previously been set aside for maintenance of the estate’s buildings, and projects.
An estate spokesperson said the sale would “allow for investment in the estates’ long term heritage projects to continue unhindered."