A SCULPTURE by North Yorkshire-born Lord Leighton is expected to fetch up to £800,000 when it is auctioned at the break up of the world's most comprehensive private collection of Victorian art next month.

It follows the decision by the Forbes publishing family to sell 361 paintings and sculptures from their London home.

About £25m is expected for the collection, which goes under the hammer at a two-day sale at Christie's in London, on February 19 and 20.

The works, mainly pictures, were assembled by the American-born publisher Malcolm S Forbes, whose Scottish father founded the Forbes business magazine empire.

He died in 1990, aged 71, and the collection has continued to be displayed at the family's London home.

Lord Leighton's sculpture, in white marble, is entitled An Athlete Wrestling With a Python and was completed in about 1887 after being commissioned by Carl Jacobsen, owner of the Carlsberg brewery in Copenhagen, for the museum he founded in 1882. It was first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1891.

At the same sale, John Atkinson Grimshaw's 1879 painting, The Harbour Flare, painted after the artist and his family's arrival in Scarborough in 1876, is estimated to realise up to £300,000. It is regarded as one of his most dramatic explorations of the combination of moonlight and firelight.

Martin Beisly, of Christie's, said: "This is one of the truly great Victorian art collections, definitely the most important ever to come to auction. It is wonderful to see an American-born collector react so passionately to British art."