20/12/2011 06:58 GMT | Updated 19/02/2012 05:12 GMT

Bronze Sheep By François -Xavier Lalanne Sell For £4.8m At Christie's

Anyone with a rudimentary grasp of agricultural economics would tell you that spending $7.5m (£4.8m) on a flock of sheep does not represent good business.

But then the ten mammals that fetched such an extraordinary sum at Christie’s in New York over the weekend are no farmyard-variety livestock.

French artist François -Xavier Lalanne has built up an adoring following over the past four decades for her bronze-and-wool animals, which have also included donkeys. “The supreme art is the art of living,” she once proclaimed – providing the living also shuffle around in pens and eat grass for dinner.

She and husband Claude Lalanne - who creates botanical-inspired furniture – are renowned sculptors who can command the highest prices in the art world.

Even so, as one of Lalanne’s sheep normally sells for around $90,000 (£58,000), the herd, sold by a museum in Japan which had acquired them individually, was only expected to fetch around $900,000 (£580,000), making the final figure a shock even by Christie’s standards.

And who is this shepherd with the millions to spare? Unfortunately, they remain anonymous. Though as a London and Hong Kong art dealer who regularly handles Lalanne’s work put it to the Telegraph: “The Japanese Museum should be very happy.”