A sculpture originally bought for 5 British pounds (£5) in 1930 by a local town council in Scotland and later found being used as a doorstop to prop open a shed door could be sold for almost 3 million British pounds.
The marble bust of Highland landowner Sir John Gordon was made by distinguished French artist Edmé Bouchardon in 1728.
It is now in the care of Highland Council, but any sale would benefit Invergordon Common Good Fund.
The fund provides grant assistance to projects in the Easter Ross town and surrounding area.
Highland Council said it has been approached by an overseas private buyer, via auction company Sotheby’s, about purchasing the bust for more than £2.5m.
A meeting of the local authority’s Easter Ross committee next Monday is to discuss the bid, along with other options for its sale.
In a report to the committee, officials said it was for councillors to consider all available information in making their decision whether or not the bust should be sold.
The report said: “This will include seeking views from the Invergordon community.
“A number of points need careful consideration in reaching any decision and, if required, the experts at Sotheby’s are prepared to meet members to discuss, advise and answer any questions.”
Sir John was an MP whose family owned land in Easter Ross and also gave their name to the town of Invergordon on the Cromarty Firth.
Bouchardon created sculptures for the gardens of the Palace of Versailles, the former home of French royalty, and also made the Fontaine des Quatre-Saisons in rue de Grenelle, Paris.
About 200 years after he made his sculpture of Sir John, it was bought by Invergordon Town Council for £5.
It was then thought to have been mislaid and lost during local government reorganisation before it was rediscovered being used as a door stop for a shed in an industrial estate in Balintore, near Invergordon, in 1998.
Art historian Dr Bendor Grosvenor told BBC Radio Scotland it would be sad if the artwork ended up overseas.
He said: “Here is this work of art that has fallen into the lap of Highland Council for no money at all and it seems all they want to do is sell it for a lot of money to someone outside Scotland, when really there is no reason they can’t lend it to Inverness Museum or National Galleries of Scotland or National Museum of Scotland.”
About nine years ago, a row broke out after Highland Council suggested it might sell the bust, with the money going into the local authority’s funds.
Documents backing the community claim to the bust were thought to have been destroyed some time in the past 40 years.
In 2016, the bust was exhibited at the Louvre in Paris and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
The sculpture is currently in Highland Council storage, bu t no longer being used as a doorstop.