LONDON (AFP) — A recently-discovered rare Faberge egg was sold for a record sum of nearly nine million pounds (12.5 million euros, 18.5 million dollars) on Wednesday, the auction house Christie's in London said.
The intricate treasure was made in 1902 by Peter Carl Faberge for the Rothschild banking family and contains a diamond-encrusted cockerel which pops out every hour to flap its wings and nod its head while crowing.
The prized object was snapped up by Russian collector Alexander Ivanov, head of the Russian National Museum, currently under construction and slated to be the country's biggest private museum.
He pledged to take the egg home.
"It will be brought back to Russia. Russia will be its permanent home. With this acquisition we are saying 'Russia is going forwards'," he told reporters.
He paid 8,980,500 pounds. "The egg didn't reach as high as it could go. It was a little below the average price, I am very happy," he said.
Anthony Philips, Russian art specialist at Christie's, said: "It's fantastic. It has broken the previous record by some two million pounds.
"It has an amazing fascination for about everybody. It's just a magic name, a romantic association," he added, saying the Rothschild egg "is a stunning work."
The previous record for a Russian object was established when the Faberge Winter Egg sold at Christie's in New York in April 2002 for 9.58 million dollars.
One of only three known examples featuring a clock and a mechanical figure, the Rothschild egg is unusually large and is enamelled in pink with gold detailing.
Faberge, a Russian jeweller whose name is synonymous with extravagant craftsmanship, made 50 eggs for the Russian royal family but is only known to have created 12 eggs to similar standards for private clients.
The Rothschild egg was auctioned as part of a week of Russian art sales at Christie's which have attracted a wave of big bucks bids from wealthy Russian business people in London.
A separate auction later Wednesday afternoon fetched 25.8 million pounds, highlighted by the 2.3-million-pound sale of Iurii Pavlovich Annenkov's "Portrait of Aleksandr Nikolaevich Tikhonov", which was a record price for the artist at auction, and double the pre-sale estimate.
Alexis de Tiesenhausen, the head of Russian pictures and works of art at Christie's, said the fact that the egg went to a Russian buyer illustrated a recent trend.
"For a very long time the buyers were in Europe and in the United States. The Russian collectors entered the arena of the auction some five years ago, so it's a very realistic, normal price," he said.
Chris Martin-Zakheim, owner of a Russian antique and arts gallery in London, said wealthy Russians who did well in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union were keen to give something back.
"To buy their redemption in Russia, they are buying art and are giving the art back to Russia," he said.
"Paying lots of money here, for lots of art, giving it to the Russian museum, or opening their own museum, and they get their redemption, it's a fantastic system."
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