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Tiny Sculpture Brings $57 Million

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December 5, 2007 04:41 PM EST | AP

NEW YORK — A 3 1/4-inch limestone lion from ancient Mesopotamia fetched the highest price ever paid at an auction for a sculpture _ $57 million.

Sotheby's had estimated that the Guennol Lioness would bring up to $18 million.

The tiny figure, found at a site near Baghdad, had been on loan from Alastair and Edith Martin to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for nearly 60 years. It is thought to be at least 5,000 years old.

The family decided to sell the lion for financial planning reasons, the auction house said. It was sold through a charitable trust set up by the Martins, and the proceeds will benefit the trust.

There were at least five bidders at Wednesday's sale. The buyer, who wished to remain anonymous, entered the bidding at $27 million. The final price includes the auction house commission.

The previous record for a sculpture at auction was Pablo Picasso's bronze "Tete de Femme," which sold at Sotheby's earlier this year for $29 million.