AN imposing Roman marble bust is set to go under the hammer… and is expected to fetch up to £50,000.

Bidders have been gathering to take a look at the impressive sculpture depicting Emperor Antoninus Pius, at auctioneer Reeman Dansie, in Wyncolls Road, Severalls Business Park, Colchester.

Also up for sale is a painting of a bay hunter horse by prolific Dedham artist Sir Alfred Munnings which is forecast to attract bids of up to £20,000.

But the life-sized marble bust, which experts have traced back to the second century, is expected to be the highlight of the auctions running until tomorrow.

It portrays the famous emperor, whose peaceful reign was one of intelligence and clemency, with his full beard and characteristic curly hair.

Gazette: Historic - the bustHistoric - the bust

The sculpture was more recently in the hands of Frederick Hughes, renowned pop art pioneer Andy Warhol’s business manager.

Reeman Dansie associate director Daniel Wright admitted there is “no substitute” for seeing items like this enter the auctioneering house.

He said: “People literally scratch the soil here around Colchester and turn up with Roman pieces – we’ve had people walk through the door with oil lamps and coins they’ve dug up in their gardens.

“What we don’t get often is a big sculpture like this, it’s rare to find items as substantial.

“It’s a really commanding piece, a fantastic sculpture which would grace any home.”

Also up for grabs on what Mr Wright described as a sale with “tremendous” anticipation and engagement is a painting by arguably Britain’s finest painter of horses Sir Alfred Munnings.

Gazette: Art - the paintingArt - the painting

Mr Wright said the piece, which will reach at least £15,000, is a “typical Munnings commission”.

He added: “It’s a very fine example of what Munnings does best, it’s very immediate in the way it is painted and is a really nice size.

“The horse is a good looking one and the painting is in a nice condition. It’s the complete package for someone looking for a Munnings work.

“The oil paintings don’t come up very often so there is a lot of excitement.”