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The silver reliquary figure of St Sebastian, pictured, dates from 1497. Of superb artistic quality, it shows the martyrdom of the saint pierced by arrows. It was bought for almost £1.5 million by private treaty sale with £1.1m donated by the National Heritage Lottery Fund and £283,000 by the NACF.

Mark Jones, the director of the V&A, said: “The reliquary of St Sebastian is the oldest surviving figurative reliquary in the country and is one of the most important works of art of its kind to be sold in the last 50 years.

“No other examples are to be found in a British public collection so it is very fitting that it will now be displayed at the V&A as part of our rich collection of works of art from the late Gothic and early Renaissance period.”