"The Moor" was made in 1653 as a model for a fountain in Rome's Piazza Navona.
In announcing the purchase on the weekend, the museum identified the work as the figure of a nude triton that was rediscovered several years ago. It was purchased by a New York dealer at Sotheby's auction house in London in 2002 for $3 million as "attributed to Bernini." The dealer, Salander O'Reilly, authenticated the piece and placed it on the market with a price tag of $15 million, but the Kimbell purchase price was not announced.
It is believed the terracotta, a model for the finished marble statue, was made by the artist as a presentation piece for Pope Innocent X who commissioned the fountain in 1651.
"The Moor" is the second rare terracotta acquired by the Kimbell in recent months, the other being a 1500 portrait bust of a woman, believed to be Isabella d'Este, attributed to Gian Cristoforo Romano.