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The group was attributed to the workshop of the south German sculptor Michel Erhart (c.1440-45 to after 1520) whose works rarely come onto the market. The painting and gold decoration had been extensively restored, but as the figure had been in private Austrian collections since the 1950s considerable interest followed.

The moderate estimate of €15,000-30,000 also had the desired effect: after most of contenders dropped out, a bidder in the room battled with a German collector on the phone and the latter sealed the deal at €100,000 (£86,205).

Goddess of wisdom

The second piece attracted even more bids. It was a 15in (39cm) high bronze figure of Minerva, the Roman goddess of wisdom, holding the severed head of Medusa on her shield. The auction house did not provide any information about the origin of the piece, which was catalogued as 16th or 17th century.

However, the later provenance obviously made it highly attractive: it had been in the same Austrian collection since the 19th century. The guide of €10,000-12,000 left plenty of room for the bidders, who acted accordingly. The European collector who finally won the day closed the bidding at €105,000 (£90,520).

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