The sculpture went under the hammer in the first ‘prestige’ auction to be held by the new Paris auction team of Guillaume Crait and Thomas Müller on December 2 at the Hotel Drouot.
In a full room, it drew strong demand and easily overtook its €600,000-800,000 estimate before it was knocked down at €1.2m (£1m), the highest sum paid for the sculptor’s work at auction in France.
The 19in (47.5cm) wide patinated bronze was a lost-wax cast by the Hébrard foundry from pre-1934 and was numbered 5 on the plinth. It came from a French collection, was signed R Bugatti and stamped with the Hébrard seal.
Bugatti created this model in 1909 when he was 25 years old and had already been fascinated for some years by exotic animals which he regularly went to observe at the Jardins des Plantes menagerie in Paris and the Antwerp Zoo.
He shows the anteater bent to lick its paw, a pose that accentuates the creature’s natural circular geometry.