The piece, among a number of antiquities and tribal art passed by descent from the collection of James Ewing Somerville (1843-1923) in the August 4 sale, was included in a group lot catalogued simply as containing ‘a collection of ancient Roman terracotta pottery’.
Estimated at £200-400, the lot attracted several bidders including a museum in Italy before it was knocked down to a UK private buyer for £3300. After the sale, a dealer told the auction house he had seen only one other bowl like it. According to Somerville’s notes and diary entries seen by the saleroom, he acquired the terracotta pottery in 1888 from ‘Roman sales’ held at Ventimiglia, close by to Bordighera – the place where the British Museum would source its bowl a year later.
Although the bowl at Lindsay Burns was unmarked, several of the more standard pottery objects in the lot were impressed with Cas(tus fecit), the maker’s mark also found on the piece in the museum.
The rest of the 33-lot group contained an assortment of Roman pottery and glass, tribal art fragments and ancient Egyptian curios – including a finger bone of a Mummy – and was well-contested to the tune of £25,000.