22 February - 4 April 2011. The latest addition to the collection of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam is a terracotta sculpture by the Italian master Tommaso Porlezza della Porta (c.1546-1606) which was bought recently in London from a private owner.
The 22.5cm sculpture by the Roman artist is a depiction of the Old Testament prophet Balaam and was produced between 1575 and 1578. It has been described by experts as one of Italy's most beautiful extant 16th-century terracotta sculptures and was used as the scale model for a life-sized marble sculpture created for the "Santa Casa", or holy house, in the Italian city of Loreto, visited by millions of pilgrims each year.
Dating from the 16th century, a shrine was built around the remains of the house which, in the Middle Ages, was believed to be the birthplace of the Virgin Mary, carried from Nazareth to Loreto by angels.