Specialist Shares Insight on a 240cm-tall Imperial Figure of Medicine Buddha

Last week, The Value took a glimpse of star lots to be offered at Christie’s upcoming spring sales in Hong Kong. Among the highlights, a large-scale Buddhist sculpture from the Qing dynasty caught everyone’s attention by its spectacular size – 240cm tall with pedestal.

We talked to Ruben Lien, Senior Specialist in Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, about this larger-than-life-size Buddhist figure that was seated in the centre of a décor store in San Francisco for over half a century.

*For more details about other star lots, please see article Christie’s Unveils Star Lots from Upcoming Hong Kong Spring Sales

An Imperial Gilt-Lacquered Wood Figure of the Medicine Buddha

Qing Dynasty, 18th century
Height: 172.7cm (the figure). 68.5cm (gilt-lacquered wood pedestal)

  • Acquired by Martin S. Rosenblatt for Gump’s in Kyoto, Japan, between 1936-1948
  • The property of an American Family

Estimate: HK$30,000,000 - 50,000,0000

The most notable feature of this Buddha is its monumental scale. I was overwhelmed by its enormous size when I first saw it in person. The figure itself, without the pedestal, is 172 cm tall. It’s the biggest among all Buddhist sculptures of its kind.

It was made in accordance with the specification from Imperial temples, possible in the early Qing dynasty, between Kangxi and Qianlong period. It also matches with the form of other gilt-bronzes figures from Imperial temples.

Ruben Lien, Senior Specialist in Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Christie’s

Christie’s warehouse in Hong Kong

It was acquired by Gump’s in the 1940s in Kyoto. Gump’s is a luxury home furnishing and decor store in San Francisco with a history of over 150 years.The figure was placed in the centre of the store for over 50 years but not for sale. It is dear to the hearts of many San Franciscans. People can instantly recognise the figure if they have been to the store.

Gump’s was a luxury American home furnishings and décor store, founded in 1861 in San Francisco. The company was liquidated in 2018

The Buddhist figure was placed in the centre of the store

The Buddhist figure was not for sale at Gump’s

The figure underwent minor repairs during the 90s. Objects inside the figure were taken out and then put back again. It is in very good condition for a colossal figure like this. It shares similar design and style to several bronze figures from the early Qing. We can see the similarities in the topknot, its countenance and the drape. The original figure was likely made with an alms bowl placed on the left hand since this is a figure of the medicine Buddha, a guardian of the East. The right hand holds Varadamudra, the gesture of offering.

Christie’s Hong Kong Spring Sales

Venue: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
Sale: Splendours of Buddhist Art
Date: 29 May 2019