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Thursday, December 6, 2007

Rare 5,000-year-old ancient Mesopotamian sculpture breaks auction record

An extremely rare 5,000-year-old sculpture from ancient Mesopotamia sold for whopping 57.2 million dollars in New York on Wednesday. The carved Guennol Lioness statue stands just over eight centimeters (3 1/4 inches) tall. The tiny miniature has shattered previous record sells for both sculpture and antiquities. The white limestone tiny statue has been described as one of the last known masterworks from the dawn of civilization remaining in private hands. The Sotheby's auction house said, "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 in charge of the sale, said in a joint statement. "Before the sale, a great connoisseur of art commented to us that he always regarded the figure as the 'finest sculpture on earth' and it would appear that the market agreed with him," they said.

The popularity of the ancient statue was highly anticipated with as many as five different bidders, three on the telephone and two in the room, competing for the sculpture. The triumphant buyer of the ancient Mesopotamia piece was identified as an English buyer who wished to remain anonymous. The previous record holder for the highest price for a sculpture at auction was at 29.1 million dollars and set last month at Sotheby's in New York by Picasso's "Tete de Femme (Dora Maar)." Another previous contender for the highest priced at auction was paid at 28.6 million dollars for "Artemis and the Stag," a 2,000-year-old bronze figure which sold also at Sotheby's in New York in June. It once held the record for the most expensive antiquity to be sold at auction.

Sotheby's described The Guennol Lioness created around 5,000 years ago -- around the same time as the first known use of the wheel -- in the region of ancient Mesopotamia as diminutive in size, but monumental in conception. The ancient piece was acquired by private collector Alastair Bradley Martin in 1948 and has been on display in New York's Brooklyn Museum of Art ever since.

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