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The 2ft high figure of a naked boy is an early study for the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus by Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934). He was an old boy of the school and the bronze was the centrepiece of a garden of remembrance to the 107 old boys killed during the Second World War.

After the theft, the school had a second cast made from a version in the Tate Gallery, but the original turned up last year at Butterfield and Butterfield in San Francisco after being consigned from a local deceased estate. Mark Hayter, a sculpture and decorative arts specialist who used to be at the Chenil Galleries in Chelsea before moving to America 14 years ago, was immediately struck by the quality of the unsigned work. Books on Gilbert indicated that it was by him and Mr Hayter bought it “very reasonably”.

He then decided to put it up for sale at Sotheby’s, where Diana Keith Neal, the firm’s sculpture specialist, discovered its earlier provenance. Mr Hayter then made some discreet enquiries of his own and said there was no reason to believe that the collector who had owned it before him had stolen it or had bought it knowing it to be stolen.

He has now agreed to sell the piece jointly with the school, with a proportion of the proceeds going to the school development fund. The school governors’ chairman, John Woodrow said: “It is a very satisfactory outcome.”