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The trio of hippos, a mother and two children, fashioned as a bathtub, toilet and bidet, is a fine example of the whimsical metamorphic menagerie for which the French artist/designer is best known. The set has an estimate in the region of €2.5m.

It was commissioned in the 1990s by the present owner, a grandson of the Swiss animalier sculptor Edouard-Marcel Sandoz. He first met the Lalannes, François-Xavier and his wife Claude, in the 1970s. Twenty years later, inspired by a bright blue resin hippopotamus bathtub that François-Xavier had created for Marcel Duchamp and his wife Teeny, he and his wife asked for a bathroom set.

The request was initially met with hesitation as Lalanne explained that hippopotamuses are not biologically able to conceive twins, but after some deliberation, they settled on the story that the second calf could be a friend of the first.

Lalanne produced a life-size set in copper, gilded metal and patinated bronze with the mother formed as a bathtub with a sink in her open mouth and the two young hippos as the bidet and toilet.

The artist’s other requirement was to position the animals in the bathroom himself, arranging them to face a view of the surrounding mountains.