Christie’s New York presented early Buddhist art from Japanese collections at the “Treasure of the Noble Path: Early Buddhist Art from Japanese Collections” sale. The most expensive lot is a gilt-bronze standing figure of Buddha from Korea in the 8th century and it was sold for US$730,000 with buyer’s premium.
To be exact, the figure is from the Unified Silla period (AD 668-935), around the period of Tang dynasty (AD 618-907) in China. Buddhism was introduced to Korea (which was subdivided into three kingdoms at that time) via China in the 4th century. The influence of Buddhism further grew in the Unified Silla period and gilt-bronze figures of Buddha sprung up from the end of 4th century to the early 5th century.
The figure is cast with its right hand raised in abhayamudra (gesture of fearlessness) and the lowered left hand holding a flattened globular object, likely representing a medical bowl or jar. The hair is dressed in small curls that also cover the ushnisha. It is believed to represent the Medicine Buddha, Yaka Yeorae.
Estimated at US$80,000 – 120,000, the 17.8-high Buddhist figure was hammered down at US$600,000 after an intense bidding war and was sold for US$730,000 with buyer’s premium.
The second one is a grey stone seated figure of Buddha, inscribed with the 1st year of Chuigoong (AD 685), dating a period earlier than the Unified Silla period. Chuigong stands for the reign of Emperor Ruizong of Tang, who was the son of Empress Consort Wu (Wu Zetian). Based on the inscription, this is a figure of Amitābha, the creator of a pure land called Sukhāvatī. The figure is believed to be made to commemorate people who passed away at the time.
The 54cm-tall figure of Buddha wears layered robes that fall in crisp folds around the body and the pedestal base is carved around the sides of the rectangular mid-section. The right hand is missing and hand gesture could be abhayamudra (gesture of fearlessness) or varadamudra (gesture of offering). Standing Guardian figures are carved on each narrow side and on the back of the pedestal base. At each front corner is the remains of a kneeling donor figure.
The figure was estimated at US$80,000 – 120,000 and the bidding was heat. This lot was hammered down at US$550,000 and sold for US$670,000 with buyer’s premium.
The third one is a bronze seated figure of Buddha from the 10th century, featured on the catalogue’s cover. The figure, together with the base and a flame-form aureole, is 16.8cm high. The figure appears to belong to a group of Buddhist votive figures produced in Zhejiang during the Wuyue kingdom. Of this group of figures, one represents Buddha while the other three represent bodhisattvas. This figure carried an estimate of US$15,000 – 18,000 and was hammered down at US$380,000, over 20 times of its estimate. It was sold for US$468,000 with buyer’s premium.
A RARE AND IMPORTANT GILT-BRONZE STANDING FIGURE OF BUDDHA. KOREA, UNITED SILLA PERIOD (AD 668-935).
Lot no.: 835
- Mori Katsuji Collection, by 1917.
- Mayuyama & Co., Tokyo, prior to 1983.
Estimate: US$80,000 - 120,000
Hammer Price: US$600,000
Price realized: US$732,500
A GREY STONE SEATED FIGURE OF BUDDHA. TANG DYNASTY (AD 618-907), DATED BY INSCRIPTION TO THE 1ST YEAR OF CHUIGONG (AD 685)
Lot no.: 833
Provenance:Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1930.
Estimate: US$80,000 - 120,000
Hammer price: US$550,000
Price realized: US$672,500
A RARE BRONZE SEATED FIGURE OF BUDDHA. FIVE DYNASTIES-NORTHERN SONG DYNASTY (AD 907-1126), 10TH CENTURY.
Lot no.: 838
Private collection, Japan, acquired prior to 1930.
Estimate: US$15,000 - 18,000
Hammer price: US$380,000
Price realized: US$468,500
Auction house: Christie’s New York
Sale: Treasures of the Noble Path: Early Buddhist Art from Japanese Collections
Sale no.: 15939
Auction date: 2017/9/14
Sale total: US$3,922,500
No. of lots: 39
Average price per lot: US$106,013
Sell-through rate: 95%
(All prices realized have included buyer’s premium unless otherwise specified)