New York, New York, December 5, 2007
—Smashing records for the most money spent at auction for a sculpture and for an antiquity, the tiny Guennol Lioness sold for a whopping $57.2 million (U.S.) in New York on Wednesday.
The 5,000-year-old limestone carving, which stands about 3.25 inches (8 centimeters) tall, was made by an artisan from an ancient Mesopotamian culture around the same time as the first known use of the wheel. Presale estimates had the lioness—seen here before the auction on November 28—selling for up to $18 million.
The figure has been on display at the Brooklyn Museum of Art since the late 1940s, on loan from private collector Alastair Bradley Martin. The statue's new owner was identified as a British buyer who asked to remain anonymous, according to the AFP news service.
"It was an honor for us to handle the Guennol Lioness, one of the greatest works of art of all time," Richard Keresey and Florent Heintz, the experts at Sotheby's auction house in charge of the sale, said in a joint statement.
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Photograph by Jacob Silberberg/Reuters