Treasures collected over hundreds of years by the Percy family have been put up for sale to replenish estate funds – after storm damage racked-up a hefty repair bill.
The Duke of Northumberland has instructed Sotheby’s to auction around 80 lots throughout the year, with a combined estimate price of more than £15million.
The decision to part with the precious heirlooms has been sparked by the Newburn flooding saga, when heavy rain in 2012 caused a culvert on Northumberland Estates’-owned land to collapse, damaging nearby blocks of flats and requiring some to be demolished.
The Duke said: “The Newburn floods were unexpected and momentous and our overriding responsibility was to help those affected.
“The costs involved in repairing the situation in Newburn have now been settled, but largely from funds that were destined for maintenance of our historic buildings and projects intended to safeguard the future of the Estates.
“It is to replenish these funds that these Sotheby’s sales have been conceived.
“While each of the pieces to be sold is of great intrinsic interest, they have been carefully chosen so as not to detract from the overall integrity of the Northumberland collection.”
The celebrated collection formed by the Dukes of Northumberland has been described by Sotheby’s as legendary.
From their historic homes at Alnwick Castle and Syon House in west London, the items to be sold will span a wide range of periods and media from Roman sculpture to Old Masters and rare books and manuscripts, as well as works of art from Europe, South East Asia and the Islamic world.
The selection is spearheaded by a supreme marble statue of Aphrodite, which was purchased by the 1st Duke of Northumberland. The masterpiece has an estimated price tag of between £4million and £6million.
The remarkable offering of rare books and manuscripts is led by The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, the first book ever to be printed in the English language. It is predicted to fetch between £600,000 to £800,000.
Among the paintings are two works purchased by the 4th Duke of Northumberland in Rome in 1856.
The treasures will be presented in a series of sales in London. Henry Wyndham, chairman of Sotheby’s Europe, said: “The depth and richness of the Northumberland collection is legendary.
“Charting not only the Percy family’s history over an entire millennium, but also important moments in the artistic development of many schools and nations, the collection is among the finest private art collections in the world.”