Page last updated at 16:15 GMT, Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Degas dancer tipped to fetch 12m

The Little Dancer was modelled on a 14-year-old girl

A bronze sculpture by the French master Degas of a young ballet dancer is expected to fetch up to 12 million when it goes up for auction next month.

The Little Dancer (Petite Danseuse de Quatorze Ans) is being offered for sale by Sir John Madejski, the millionaire chairman of Reading football club.

Originally made from wax circa 1879-81, the sculpture is the only one to be exhibited during the artist's lifetime.

The bronze figure will be auctioned at Sotheby's in London on 3 February.

Sotheby's Melanie Clore described the work, expected to reach between 9m and 12m, as "an important and iconic sculpture".

"We are thrilled to be offering this remarkable work which is so celebrated for the revolutionary nature of its modern sculptural form."

The wax figure was found in the artist's studio after his death in 1917 and cast in bronze in 1922.

In 2004 Sir John - who received his knighthood in the New Year honours list - lent the sculpture to the Royal Academy of Arts in London.

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