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Estimated at £3m-5m, the bronze by Giambologna (1529-1608) was due to be auctioned at Sotheby’s Treasures sale on July 4.

Giambologna, the Flemish sculptor born Jean Boulogne, worked in Italy and was celebrated for his marble and bronze statuary in the late Renaissance.

He worked for three Medici grand dukes and his works are highly prized. This particular bronze was made in Florence before 1587. This makes it rare as it is one of the very few works documented during the artist’s lifetime. It is recorded as being in the Dresden Kunstkammer in 1587 — a gift to Christian I, Elector of Saxony, from Giambologna himself.

Museum interest

The 15.5in (39.5cm) high figure on a 3.25in (8.5cm) ebonised wood base had been in the collection of German corporation Bayer AG for the past 30 years. It has now been bought by the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, the Dresden State Art Collections, owned by the state of Saxony. 

In a statement, Sotheby’s said the lot had been withdrawn from sale “following a direct offer to the seller of the sculpture, Bayer AG, by the Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden to secure the piece for Dresden”.

It added: “Given the strength of the museum’s interest in acquiring the sculpture, Bayer has made the decision to sell the work to them via private sale, rather than proceed with auction. Since Sotheby's first presented Giambologna’s Mars to potential buyers in mid-May this year, interest from private collectors and museums alike has been strong and mounting… Sotheby’s has been reimbursed for its efforts in accordance with its consignment agreement with Bayer.”