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The claim was enhanced by the 999-lot Decades of Design sale on March 30 which included two auction records bid for Pulcini bird figures designed c.1963 by Alessandro Pianon (1931-84) for the Vistosi factory in his native Venice.

Farmer, who took 15 years to amass his own complete set of five, was not surprised when two virtually perfect, one-private-owner birds in the same sale triggered huge pre-sale interest. “Prices for the five reflect rarity and complexity,” he said. “Top prices are for the square olive green birds then range down through the triangular purple, the green and blue which make around the same money, and lowest are the orange birds.”

Setting estimates

With the highest-known bid for the square bird being £4500, Farmer pitched his fine 8in (21cm) tall example at £4000-6000, confident that, despite slightly wonky copper legs, the bird with internal blue and orange murrines and millefiori glass eyes, could reach those heights.

Against strong New York and Italian competition, it did so selling to a UK collector against a UK underbidder at £6900.

More of a surprise was the triangular bird, 6in (16cm) tall, with murrine glass eyes and on a clear crystal base above copper wire legs, offered 30 minutes later and pitched at £2500-3000.

The battle came down to the same rivals – “I learned that both needed the two birds to complete their sets of five,” said Farmer.

Victory went to the same buyer who beat his previous record bid, buying it at £7000.