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Rare Artefact to Auction at Dukes in Dorchester


3:29pm 4th February 2013

A Garden Trough which turned out to be a Rare Roman Coffin is going under the hammer in Dorchester.

Last year a similar sarcophagus was found in a Dorset garden and went for nearly £100,000.

The Roman artefact was found when a retired man from Northumberland read of the Dorset discovery and realised he had something similar on his lawn. After he emailed pictures to Duke's in Dorchester, specialist Guy Schwinge travelled to investigate.

Guy Schwinge said, "It is not often this sort of thing turns up and we are delighted that the publicity generated by our initial discovery has brought to light this exceptional example. I think buyers will be particularly excited because it is almost identical to another Roman sarcophagus in the Galleria Lapidaria in the Vatican."

He continued that, "It is quite exceptional for a piece of Roman Imperial Art of this importance to turn up unrecognised in a garden. Sadly, it is unlikely we will ever be able to prove the circumstances in which it left Rome in 1902, but it is reassuring to know that it left Italy over 100 years ago. It is also interesting that in the same year Henry Walters, the millionaire president of the Atlantic Coastline Railroad and founder of the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore, USA, acquired the contents of the Palazzo Accoranboni in Rome. At that time he paid the unprecedented sum of $1,000,000 and the collection included no less than seven magnificent sarcophagi from a burial chamber associated with the Calpurnii Pisones family. It is interesting to speculate whether the sarcophagus we are selling could relate to Henry Walters' purchase."

The owners acquired the sarcophagus when they bought their house thirty years ago, but thought it was just a garden ornament. Detective work by the auctioneers has identified that it was probably bought to Northumberland in 1969, when the previous owners moved from Beckfort, a substantial country house near Brampton and Ullswater in the Lake District.
The artefact will be sold at Duke's in Dorchester on February the 14th.

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