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Measuring 6ft 10in by 2ft 2 1/2in (67 x 2.09m), it shows a favourite Roman decorative domestic theme, pygmies from Upper Egypt (a semi-mythical race of comical dwarfs described by Aristotle) hunting hippopotamus, while a crocodile chomps on a mule in the foreground. The details of dress, plants and animal life gave the scene great vividness.

The panel had been acquired by a French collector in North Africa in 1935. It had last appeared at Drouot, Paris in November 2002 in three pieces, where it sold for much less. Reassembled and restored, its attractions became rather clearer.

The previous lot, a Roman mosaic fragment, c.2nd century AD, depicting a vigorous young blond man with a whip, probably a beater in a hunting scene, shown bottom right, fetched $70,000 (£38,045) (estimate $12,000-18,000).

Measuring 30 by 22in (76 by 56cm), it had the same French-North African provenance as the pygmy mosaic.