A sculpture of Hitler on his knees has sold at a New York auction for $17.2 million, a record for Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan.

The wax and resin figure, called Him, depicts Hitler as the size of a boy, on his knees, and dressed in a grey woollen suit.

Cattelan - who finished the work in 2001 - has said of the sculpture: "I wanted to destroy it myself. I changed my mind a thousand times, every day.

"Hitler is pure fear. It's an image of terrible pain.

"It even hurts to pronounce his name. And yet that name has conquered my memory. It lives in my head, even if it remains taboo.

"Hitler is everywhere, haunting the specter of history; and yet he is unmentionable, irreproducible, wrapped in a blanket of silence."

The sale took place at Christie’s as part of the Bound to Fail auction of "rule-breaking artists".

It comfortably beat its sale estimate of $10-$15 million.

The auction house’s deputy chairman of post-war art, Loic Gouzer, described the sale as "difficult" but added that it "came off well".

He said that unlike the movies, "artists have hardly ever touched on the issue of Hitler."

The previous record for 55-year-old artist Cattelan was $7.9 million.

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