Edmé Bouchardon Bust Purchased For $6 May Sell For $3M

The Scottish town council purchased the bust for six dollars almost a century ago, before it disappeared in the mid-20th century then reappeared in 1998 in a shed in rural Scotland—at present, it could sell for millions. 

For 25 years, the Inverness Museum & Art Gallery in Scotland has kept a bust of  Sir John Gordon, an 18th-century Scottish landowner and political figure, in storage. In 1728, the renowned French artist Edmé Bouchardon created the sculpture for the young Gordon, as per CNN. Though the Highland Council suggested selling the bust back in 2014, a member of the Scottish Parliament rejected the proposal on the grounds that the sculpture was a community asset. 

The bust of Sir John Gordon by Edmé Bouchardon
The bust of Sir John Gordon by Edmé Bouchardon/Photo from The Highland Council website

However, things may be changing now. The Council is once again considering the sale of the bust, as long as the buyer provides a museum-quality replica. The group will not be finalizing the decision until members of the small, coastal community of Invergordon, Scotland, have had their say. Gordon was not only a landowner, but also the founder of the small town of Invergordon, hence the sculpture’s significance to the locality. 

An anonymous individual has already approached Sotheby’s with a $3 million (£2.5 million) offer to purchase the sculpture.Considering how the Scottish town council purchased the bust for a small six dollars (five British pounds), which is roughly $500 today, this price jump is certainly exponential. This matches the price of another Bouchardon bust, the “Marquis de Gouvernet,” which the Louvre purchased for $3.2 million (€3 million) in 2012. 

The “Marquis de Gouvernet,” another valuable Bouchardon piece that sold for $3.2 million
The “Marquis de Gouvernet,” another valuable Bouchardon piece that sold for $3.2 million/Photo from the Louvre website

READ ALSO: More Than Meets The Eye: A $157 African Mask Recently Sold For $4.4 Million

Neoclassical Craftsmanship 

A feature for Artnet News describes the bust of Sir John Gordon as a prime example of Bouchardon’s early works, while Sotheby’s refers to it as “brilliant in execution.” The French artist worked under King Louis XV, having created various sculptures for the king’s Palace of Versailles, as per Artnews. Many know Bouchardon as one of the first artists who shifted away from the Rococo movement, favoring Neoclassical styles instead. 

French artist Edmé Bouchardon
French artist Edmé Bouchardon/Photo by Jacques Firmin Beauvarlet via Wikimedia Commons

Experts state that the bust was created in Rome while a young Gordon was embarking on his Grand Tour of Europe, as per Artnet News. CNN adds that such tours were a rite of passage for wealthy, aristocratic English men in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Lost and Found

After disappearing in the mid-20th century, a woman named Maxine Smith found the marble sculpture in a storage shed in 1998. 

“I found the robes and chains and also a wee white marble sculpture thing holding open the door. It could have been binned quite easily,” she told The Guardian. At the time, Sotheby’s had valued the bust at £1.4 million, as per the Ross and Cromarty Heritage website. 

Although the bust was lent to the Louvre Museum in Paris and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles for the major exhibition Bouchardon: Royal Artist of the Enlightenment, the sculpture has for the most part been in storage due to its high insurance costs and overall value.

Funds for the Community

Should Invergordon’s council and community decide to sell the bust, its proceeds will go to the Invergordon Common Good Fund, as per an official statement. The fund supports various projects that benefit the town’s citizens, according to Artnet News

A panoramic view of Invergordon, Scotland
A panoramic view of Invergordon, Scotland/Photo by W.L. Tarbert via Wikimedia Commons

“The sale of the bust has the potential to recover a significant capital receipt for Invergordon Common Good Fund which would provide investment opportunities for income generation and rejuvenation of the Common Good fund,” the council’s statement elaborates. 

Whether or not Invergordon decides to sell the bust, the decision will hopefully be one that benefits the sculpture’s community the most.

Banner photo from the Ross and Cromarty Heritage website

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