A US$1,000 Buddhist Figure Found in Furniture Store is Now Worth US$350,000

A Nepalese Buddhist figure from the 11th century was sold at auction for HK$2.75m (more than US$350,000) in a recent auction in Hong Kong. To most people, it’s just one of many Buddhist figures offered at auction. But what if I tell you that the Buddhist figure was originally valued at about US$1,000 only? The figure had gone unnoticed in a furniture store for some time until it caught the attention of a lucky collector.

A Gilt Copper Figure of Vasudhara, Nepal, circa 11th Century

With a height of 19.8cm, this gilt copper figure of Vasudhara was made in Nepal, circa 11th century. It was one of the 43 lots on offer at Bonhams' Images of Devotion sale in Hong Kong, carrying an estimate of HK$1.2m-1.6m (US150,000-200,000). It was sold for HK$2.75m (more than US$350,000) after premium.

According to the information provided by the auction house, the figure came from a private Canadian collection. We have learnt from a source that the owner actually found the Buddhist figure in a furniture store recently and took it home for about US$1,000. Now the Buddhist figure is resold for more than US$350,000, 350 times its original price.

Vasudhara, whose name means "Bearer of Treasure", is a Buddhist goddess particularly revered in Nepal. Represented as an attractive young girl, she holds a sutra, a sheaf of grain, a vase containing an elixir of immortality, and a wish-fulling gem, while a remaining hand displays the gesture of charity. The sutra in her hand associates her with Prajnaparamita, the goddess of wisdom, while the other attributes signify her role as an all-encompassing purveyor of wealth and prosperity.

The Buddhist Goddess Vasudhara, late 12th-early 13th century|Los Angeles County Museum of Art

The bronze's circa 11th-century date is suggested by various stylistic details, including the soft and sensuous modeling, the sharply defined facial features, the high armbands, and the comparatively restrained ornamentation. The diaphanous scarf crossing her chest and forming a loop over her left shoulder is also characteristic of Nepalese bronzes of this period. So are the dotted patterns within parallel sections on her lower garment. All of these elements are shared by a gilt bronze Vasudhara.

Some may say the discovery was only by sheer luck. Still, the Buddhist figure had been sitting in the store and overlooked by many by-passers while one shrewd collector with a discerning eye immediately recognised its true value. Perhaps it takes something more than luck.

A Gilt Copper Figure of Vasudhara. Nepal, Circa 11th Century

Auction house: Bonhams Hong Kong
Sale: Image of Devotion
Sale date: 7 October 2019

Lot no.: 925
Height: 19.8cm
Private Canadian Collection
Estimate: HK$1,200,000 - 1,600,000
Price realised: HK$2,750,625