An exquisite set of marble panels from St Paul's Cathedral are to go under the hammer at Bonhams this month.
The 19th century panels are adorned with beautifully carved cherubim and once formed part of the magnificent altar and its surroundings.
They were designed for St Paul's by George Frederick Bodley as key elements of the "Bodley Reredos" and were heralded as the most important work of its kind in the Italian style to be erected in England.
They were controversial, however, and a group of Protestant churchmen launched a campaign against the Dean and Chapter for erecting a superstitious symbol.
The drive to have the altarpiece removed was unsuccessful at the time but the works were eventually dismantled in the 1970s.
Current vendor, Sir Donald Insall commented, "It was extraordinary good fortune that our caretaker at the time spotted these exquisite pieces among the debris outside the Cathedral.
"It has been a delight to have them on display for the last 40 years, but now it is time to let someone else have that enjoyment.
"After so much controversy over their production, these lovely marbles have truly earned their place in the history of English ecclesiastical design.”
The marbles are expected to fetch between £10,000 and £15,000 when they come up for auction on 21 November.
Fergus Lyons, director of the furniture department at Bonhams commented, “The Bodley Reredos marbles form part of our national heritage and therefore can be considered as objects of some historical importance.
"It is fitting that Bonhams will be handling the sale of these magnificent carvings, having previously sold part of the same reredos in New York, during 2005.
"We anticipate this rare opportunity to acquire objects formerly housed in one of London’s most iconic buildings, will generate strong interest.”
St Paul's marble up for auction
Published 02 November 2012