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SOMETIMES biggest isn't always best. In 1992, a life-size Scottish marble bust of an unknown female sitter sold in a London auction for pounds 825. In their last sale, Chester fine art auctioneers Byrne's sold a five-inch version of the same bust - by now identified as Lady Sophia Frances Rutherfurd - for a staggering pounds 14,950.

The price is believed to be an auction record for a bust by Benjamin Cheverton, whose reducing machine enabled miniature copies of a sculpture to be produced as an exact copy.

The miniature ivory bust was sent for sale by a couple who had owned it for many years, aware it was made by Cheverton (it was inscribed with the fact on the base) but unaware of who he was or the identity of the sitter.

Byrne's were able to shed light on both issues: Adrian Byrne studied Cheverton's work at university and wrote his dissertation on the inventor and innovator, while research by partner Jo Boucher revealed the sitter to be the daughter of Sir James Stewart of County Donegal, Ireland and wife of Scotland's Lord Advocate Andrew Rutherfurd.

Given her husband's prominent position, Lady Rutherfurd was a noted Edinburgh hostess and the family's close friends included Lord Jeffrey, Lord Cockburn, and the architect William Playfair.

The full-sized bust was the work of Sir John Steell (1804-1891) who was appointed Queen Victoria's Sculptor in Scotland, and created many of the public statues in Edinburgh. They include the equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington outside Register House and that of Sir Walter Scott at the centre of the Scott Monument.

On Lady Rutherfurd's death in October 1852, Steell was commissioned by her husband to sculpt her portrait bust in marble, and Steell made a death mask to assist in the process.

Steell had recently completed portrait busts of Lord Cockburn (1851) and Lord Jeffrey (1852), and during 1853 he also executed a bronze bas-relief panel featuring both Lord and Lady Rutherfurd in profile for their red granite funerary pyramid designed by William Playfair in Dean Cemetery, Edinburgh.

Ivory bust... Benjamin Cheverton's finely carved ivory miniature bust of Lady Rutherfurd after an original sculpture by John Steell. It measures around four inches and is mounted on a five-inch black marble column, inscribed 'J Steell, Fec.t/Cheverton Sc.' It sold last week for pounds 14,950. The full-size model for it fetched pounds 825 in a London sale in 1992

(From left) A Copeland Parian figure of Clytie, in Greek mythology the mistress of the sun god Helios. Her jealousy of her sister Leucothea, who shared his affection, led Clytie to plot her sister's death. Losing Helios' love as a result, she died of despair and metamorphosed into a plant, the heliotrope, which always turns its head to the sun - she's worth pounds 400-600; The Scottish marble bust of Lady Rutherfurd, sold in a London auction for pounds 825 in 1992; a contemporary marble bust of Benjamin Cheverton, inventor of the reducing machine
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jul 16, 2005
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