STANSTED MOUNTFICHET, UK – A 900-year-old bronze figure of a Buddhist deity smashed all expectations to bring £273,000 (about US$343,800) during an Asian art sale at Sworders Fine Art Auctioneers on May 13. The diminutive figure of the four-faced, eight-armed goddess Amoghapasa (a name that means wisdom giver) had been consigned from a private source with modest hopes. The Buddha was found in the bottom of a box of miscellaneous metalware by Sworders Asian art specialist Yexue Li. The seller, who was described as “shell-shocked,” has subsequently invited specialists back to their house to look through further items.
The figure, which measured just 8cm high, or slightly more than three inches, was made via the cire perdue (aka lost wax) casting process. It is thought to date from the 11th or 12th century, and was made towards the end of the Pala dynasty, which flourished from the eighth to the 12th century in far northeastern India. At the time, the region bordering Nepal was one of the last strongholds of Buddhism in India and became a center for production of Buddhist artifacts for pilgrims.
The use of silver and copper inlay suggest this sculpture was an object of particularly special veneration. It sparked an extraordinary bidding battle, and it earned among the highest prices ever paid at auction for a Pala bronze.
The overall total for the May 13 Asian Art sale was £850,000 (just above $1 million), with 72% of the 380 lots offered finding new homes.