Ostrich sculpture nets record amount for auctioneers

A sculpture of an ostrich from the workshop of celebrated Renaissance sculptor Giambologna

An ostrich sculpture from a private Suffolk collection has sold for £1,824,540 at auction - Credit: Cheffins

A sculpture from a private collection in Suffolk has fetched more than £1.8m — making it the auctioneers’ biggest sale.

The sale of the 30cm high 18th century Renaissance piece set a new house record for Cambridge-based auctioneers Cheffins when it sold to a UK-based private buyer in the room.

It had been held in a private collection for more than 180 years, and was previously part of the Horace Walpole collection in Strawberry Hill after the Gothic novelist and collector bought it between 1765 and 1766. 

It was created by the workshop of Giambologna between the late 16th century and early 17th century. It was later sold at the ‘Great Sale’ of Strawberry Hill in 1842 — 45 years after Walpole’s death — to John Dunn-Gardner of Suffolk, who was also styled himself the Earl of Leicester. It has remained in the family’s collection ever since. 

Cheffins director Martin Millard 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. 

“While 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.”

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The work is one of only three known examples of the model. The others are held by The Louvre and the Fitzwilliam Museum.