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The finely detailed and sensitively modelled early 16th century
sculpture, which stands 2ft 1in (64.5cm) high, was the object of a short but intense bidding battle between a member of Sotheby’s staff bidding on behalf of a client and London dealer Daniel Katz, with the hammer falling to the anonymous bidder.

Andrea Briosco (1470-1532) or Il Riccio, as he is more commonly known, was active in and around Padua and is best known for his bronzes, particularly his small vivaciously executed figures. A handful of terracottas have been attributed to him, including a head of the Virgin in the Museo Civico, Padua and a life-size seated Virgin and Child in the Scuola del Santo at Padua, pieces to which this group bears certain similarities. Sotheby’s terracotta was discovered in Padua at the turn of 20th century by the Venetian dealer Salvadori and it is thought to have come from one of the many Paduan churches or convents suppressed in the 18th century. Like the Scuola figure, it would originally, said Sotheby’s, have been full length, either seated or standing.

Billed by the auctioneers as “one of the last great Renaissance terracottas in private hands”, the group has been in various European collections, most recently the Thyssen- Bornemisza collection from which it was offered for sale, although the British public also had the opportunity to see it earlier this year in the exhibition Earth and Fire at the Victoria and Albert Museum.