Ancient Egyptian Cat Sculpture Headed to the Trash Sells for $80,000

The £52,000 Egyptian cat sculpture.
The £52,000 Egyptian cat sculpture. Photo: Penzance Auction Rooms.

A cat figurine that narrowly avoided being thrown in the trash sold yesterday for £52,000 ($80,000) at England’s Penzance Auction Rooms after it was identified as a 2,500-year-old Egyptian bronze. The pre-sale estimate was a conservative £5,000–10,000 ($7,700–15,400).

The seven-inch-tall bust, adorned with gold earrings, decorated the hearth of Doreen Liddell’s home in Penzance, in the county of Cornwall, for many years. When she died this past November, her family assumed it was a cheap reproduction. It caught the eye of Penzance’s David Lay, who had been hired to help empty her home. A close look helped to identify it as the real deal.

The British Museum confirmed the authentication, calling it a “finely modeled and beautifully proportioned piece.” The Liddells might have guessed as much–Doreen’s late husband, Douglas, worked for Spink & Son, a London auction house founded in 1666. Known for dealing in Egyptian antiquities, Spink & Son handled the estate of Howard Carter, who discovered King Tut’s tomb, meaning the cat could once have belonged to the famed archaeologist.

Other valuable artworks found in unexpected places in recent memory include a suite of Alfred Munnings paintings stashed in an old shed, and three John Duncan Fergusson works: two paintings forgotten in an attic, and a bronze sculpture the artist hid under his bed.


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