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It sold for £320,000 (plus premium).

Soldani was Master of the Mint in Florence but, as perhaps the finest bronze caster in Europe in the late 1600s, extended his range well beyond the coinage of Tuscany. His workshop, conveniently situated opposite the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery, attracted the British 'Milordi' with Lord Burlington among the well-heeled English gentlemen who commissioned bronzes to be made from terracotta models.

This statuette - with an Anglo-Irish provenance through the family of the late Countess of Lanesborough that might take it as far back as 1716 - may well be one of them.

Dr Charles Avery, former deputy keeper of sculpture at the V&A, who catalogued the piece, speculated it was purchased with its pair depicting Leda and the Swan (now missing) by the Countess's descendant Theophilus Butler (c.1669-1723) probably from Soldani's representative GG Zamboni in London. Butler represented County Cavan and Belturbet in the Irish House of Commons.

Fitzwilliam Model

The only other version of this 15in (38cm) model is in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, who also own a version of Leda and the Swan. L&T were able to compare the two side-by-side during cataloguing.

L&T furniture and work of art specialist Douglas Girtin told ATG the bronze had been overlooked by the family but was spotted as an item of some significance during a routine valuation in November. The intervening six months allowed the auctioneers to nail down the attribution and promote the bronze properly.

Estimated at £100,000-150,000, it attracted five phone bidders (three from continental Europe and one from the US) plus two bidders in the room. Mr Girtin said it sold to "a well-known UK dealer".

The sale took place on April 22 and the buyer's premium was 25/20%.