There seems to be a lack of interest in buddhist sculptures this time in Hong Kong spring sales. After the ‘Nitta Maitreya’ failing to sell, Christie’s Contemplating The Divine - Fine Buddhist Art sale also failed to deliver satisfactory results. Although the top three lots were successfully sold, the overall sold by lots was only 57%. The top lot, a polychrome wood figure of water moon Guanyin, was sold for HK$30.1m to a Hong Kong tycoon.
The sculpture from the Liao - Jin dynasty (907 - 1234) is 66cm in height and shows the bodhisattva seated in rajalilasana, the ‘posture of royal ease’. He has an inward-turning gaze which emphasizes the Bodhisattva’s powers as a comforter. The naturalistic modelling of body and dress depict nearness and accessibility.
The figure depicted is a male deity, dressed in a form of clothing that is essentially Indian, a legacy of the religion’s transmission from India during the long-ago Han dynasty. Round his head is a delicate crown, with a space in the middle that may originally have borne a small, seated image of the Buddha Amitabha. In the centre of his forehead is a depression that originally held a jewel, representing the third eye of divine perception. Luxurious dress and jewellery indicate that Bodhisattvas are noble figures, their attire based on the garb of Indian princes. This contrasts with the humble costume of the Buddha himself.
The Guanyin figure was auctioned at Christie’s London in the 1930s, later acquired by Eskenazi (above), one of the world’s most respected dealers in Chinese art.
The figure’s bidding started at HK$8m, and aroused very intense competition between telephone bidders and room bidders. After almost 20 bids, the auctioneer put the hammer down at HK$25m (HK$30.1m with premium). The buyer is a top tycoon in Hong Kong.
Ranking in the second place is a 27.8cm gilt-bronze figure of Panjarnata Mahakala from the Yongle - Xuande period (1403 - 1435). Panjarnata Mahakala is the ‘Lord of the Pavilion’, which originates from India. He was initially the God of Wealth and War, but became the Buddhist protector in Tibetan Buddhism. He is usually seen with 6, 4 or 2 arms.
The protector deity is standing with a fierce expression holding a kartri and kapala in each of his hands. He has a bulging third eye and his hair is pulled into a flaming chignon secured with a foliate tiara set with skulls. The figure is further adorned with celestial scarves billowing across the shoulder and garland with snakes on the body, neck, crown and arm.
This Panjarnata Mahakala figure belonged to Benny Rustenburg previously. In last year’s HK spring sales, Christie’s auctioned a Shakyamuni Buddha figure (image above), which is also from Rustenburg collection. It was sold for HK$50.9m with premium.
With an opening bid of HK$6m, the price quickly rose to HK$10m after 10 bids and the lot was sold for HK$12.1m with premium. It was acquired by the telephone bidder represented by Rebecca Wei, Christie’s Asia President.
The third top lot is a gilt-bronze standing figure of Bodhisattva from the Sui dynasty (581 - 618) which measures 35.1cm in height. It is elegantly outfitted in the sumptuous trappings of an Indian prince of old. Although these figures may be presented individually, bodhisattvas often are presented in pairs and associated with particular Buddhas, in which case the three are featured together in triad form.
This Bodhisattva figure’s bidding started at HK$5m and was hammered down at HK$8m (HK$9.7m after premium), just reaching its low estimate.
Top 3 lots
A magnificent and extremely rare polychrome wood figure of water moon Guanyin
Lot no.: 2858
Collection of Martin Erdmann (1865-1937), New York
Sold at Christie’s London, 17-18 November 1937, lot 143
Collection of F. Brodie Lodge (1880-1967), Northamptonshire
Sold at Sotheby’s London, 7 June 1988, lot 48
Eskenazi Ltd., London, 1991
Estimate: HK$15,000,000 - $20,000,000
Hammer price: HK$25,000,000
Price realised: HK$30,100,000
A very rare and superb gilt-bronze figure of Panjarnata Mahakala
Lot no.: 2863
Benny Rustenburg, Amsterdam, acquired prior to 1980
Acquired from above in 1989
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - $1,000,000
Hammer price: HK$10,000,000
Price realised: HK$12,100,000
A very rare large gilt-bronze standing figure of Bodhisattva
Lot no.: 2855
Provenance: An Asian private collection, acquired in the mid-1990s
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - $12,000,000
Hammer price: HK$8,000,000
Price realised: HK$9,700,000
Auction house: Christie’s Hong Kong
Sale: Contemplating The Divine - Fine Buddhist Art
Lots offered: 21
Lots sold: 12
Bought in: 9
Sold by lot: 57%
Sale total: HK$75,227,500