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Bronze ostrich sold at auction for £1.8 million

Sam Russell, PA
·2-min read

A sculpture of an ostrich by Renaissance artist Giambologna has sold at auction for more than £1.8 million – 15 times its pre-sale estimate.

The bronze bird was sold to a UK-based private buyer in the room at the Cheffins Fine Sale in Cambridge on Thursday.

It went for £1,824,540, dwarfing the pre-sale estimate of £80,000 to £120,000 and setting a new house record for the auctioneers.

Giambologna (1529-1608) was a Flemish sculptor who worked in Italy.

The ostrich sculpture was at one point owned by Horace Walpole, son of former British prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, and held in his collection at Strawberry Hill House in Twickenham, south-west London.

It is believed to have been bought by Walpole between 1765 and 1766, having been created by Giambologna and his studio between the late 16th century and early 17th century.

It was sold at the ‘Great Sale’ of Strawberry Hill in 1842, 45 years after Walpole’s death, to John Dunn-Gardner of Suffolk.

Dunn-Gardner, who at the time styled himself as the Earl of Leicester, paid £50 and eight shillings.

A bronze ostrich sculpture by Renaissance artist Giambologna sold at auction for £1,824,540 at Cheffins Fine Sale in Cambridge (Cheffins/PA)
The bronze ostrich sculpture sold at auction for £1,824,540 at Cheffins Fine Sale in Cambridge (Cheffins/PA)

It remained in his family’s private collection until this week’s auction.

The ostrich is one of only three known examples of the model, with the other two currently held by The Louvre and the Fitzwilliam Museum.

Martin Millard, director at Cheffins, said: “This is a fantastic result and is indicative of the importance of this mannerist sculpture as well as the ongoing popularity of early 17th century works of art.

“Whilst the family always knew they were in possession of something significant, it was following extensive research that we were able to trace the ostrich back to the Horace Walpole Collection at Strawberry Hill.

“This exceptional provenance ensured that the piece drew worldwide attention, with a series of both private and trade buyers coming to view the sculpture ahead of the sale.”

The sale price includes the buyers’ premium of 24.5% and VAT.