Top Three Buddhist Figures All Failed to Sell at Poly Auction Hong Kong

In this autumn auction, Poly Auction Hong Kong has partnered with the Jacques Barrère gallery to present 15 lots of Chinese Buddhist figures from various periods. Sadly, top three lots offered at the sale all failed to sell, including a 14th-century gilt-bronze figure of Shakyamuni, a grey sandstone figure of seated Maitreya and a marble figure of Mahāsthāmaprāpta from the Tang dynasty.

Jacques Barrère (right) & le président Jacques Chirac (left)

The Jacques Barrère gallery has been collecting rare Asian art objects for an international clientele of connoisseurs. The gallery actively takes part in international art fairs: Biennale des Antiquaires in Paris, Asia week New York and TEFAF Maastricht. Works of art from the gallery can be found in the prestigious collections of museums around the world.

The sale began at 11:30am today and the atmosphere in the saleroom was lethargic. The cover lot of the sale was a grey sandstone figure of seated Maitreya from the Tang dynasty. Being 110cm in height, the figure is massive in scale. This Maitreya wears a Samghati near the skin. The left hand is placed on the left knee, and the right hand is lost, possibly in the gesture Abhaya Mudra (gesture of fearlessness). Estimated at HK$10m-12m, the figure was passed after only two bid increments.

The form of seated Maitreya with two legs down rose since Zhenguan Period. In the Tang Dynasty, as the country was in prosperity, plump was considered a feature of beauty, contrary to “clean features” in the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Therefore, the Buddhist statues were made with a round face, full of weight. The craftsmen also incorporated their own creation by adding a gentle and feminine touch to the figures, emphasizing the compassionate side of the deity.

A marble figure of Mahāsthāmaprāpta, also from the Tang dynasty, was featured on the back cover of the catalogue. The figure is 57 cm tall and estimated at HK$8m-12m. It ended up being bought-in after receiving two bid increments.

Standing on a plinth in lotus flower form, the Mahasthamaprata is represented in ‘tribunga’ (tri-bent post). The face with rounded lines presents traditional Buddhist attributes: the half-closed eyes as a sign of introspection; the elongated earlobes as a sign of wisdom; and the small and well-defined mouth hints to a discreet smile.

The bidding started at HK$17m

The top lot of the sale was a 14th-century Malla-style gilt-bronze seated figure of Shakyamuni, with a height of 41cm. It was valued at HK$20m-28m, the highest estimate at the sale. The bidding started at HK$17m and soon closed after two bid increment. The figure was bought-in at the end.

The deity is cast seated in dhyanasana with his hands in Bhumisparsha mudra, earth touching gesture. This mudra, formed with all five fingers of the right hand extended to touch the ground, symbolises the Buddha's enlightenment under the bodhi tree. The left hand is held flat in the lap in the dhyana mudra of meditation, symbolises the union of method and wisdom.

Top three lots that were bought-in

An Important and Rare Malla-Style Gilt-Bronze Seated Figure of Shakyamuni, 14th Century

Lot no.: 3212
Height: 41cm

  • Important Private Collection, Paris, acquired before 1970
  • Jacques Barrère Collection, Paris

Estimate: HK$20,000,000 - 28,000,000

A Grey Sandstone Figure of Seated Maitreya, Tang Dynasty, 7th-10th Century

Lot no.: 3207
Height: 110cm

  • A. Dreesmann Collection, Brussels, bofore 1990
  • Jacques Barrère Collection, Paris

Literature: Jacques Barrère, Art d’Extrême Orient, 2003, Cover
Estimate: HK$10,000,000 - 12,000,000

An Important and Rare Marble Figure of Mahāsthāmaprāpta, Tang Dynasty, 7th-10th Century

Lot no.: 3209
Height: 57cm

  • A French Private Collection, Acquired in 1970s.
  • Expertised by Mr. Guy Portier in 1983.
  • Jacques Barrère Collection, Paris

Literature: Jacques Barrère, Art d’Extrême Orient, 2016, Paris, Pl. 12
Estimate: HK$8,000,000 - 12,000,000

Auction details

Auction house: Poly Auction Hong Kong
Sale: A Selection of Important Chinese Sculptures from the Jacques Barrère’s Collection
Sale date: 2 October 2018
Lots offered: 15