December 5, 2007 / 10:09 PM / 10 years ago

Sotheby's auctions ancient sculpture for $57 million

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sotheby’s auctioned a tiny, ancient Mesopotamian sculpture for $57 million on Wednesday, a record sum for any sculpture or antiquity sold at auction.

The Guennol Lioness is a 3.25-inch (8.3-cm) tall white limestone figure created 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia -- the cradle of civilization between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers mostly in modern Iraq and Iran. The sculpture is considered one of the last known masterworks from its era in private hands, the auction house said.

The buyer’s identity was not revealed.

The price of $57.16 million topped the previous record of $29.16 million for a sculpture sold at auction that was held by Picasso’s “Tete de femme (Dora Maar)” which went for $29.16 million in November, Sotheby’s said.

The previous record for an antiquity was $28.6 million for a 2,000-year-old Roman bronze sold in June.

The Guennol Lioness was put up for sale by a trust established by the collectors Alastair Bradley Martin and his wife Edith, who acquired the piece in 1948. The proceeds were to benefit a charitable trust, Sotheby’s said.

“The successful bidder ... will have the distinction of owning one of the oldest, rarest and most beautiful works of art from the ancient world,” Richard Keresey, head of Sotheby’s antiquities department, said in a news release ahead of the auction.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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