A levitating Dali Buddha

On 18 June 2019, by Anne Doridou-Heim

Buddha statues from the Kingdom of Dali are extremely rare and each apparition creates quite a stir. This great haloed Buddha sold for €2,560,000.

China, Kingdom of Dali, 12th-13th century, gilded bronze Buddha statue, sitting in the vajraparyankasana position, right hand raised, h. 46 cm.
Result: €2,560,000

Wise Buddhist monks tirelessly worked on making and dividing the figure of their revered Buddha. This gilded bronze statue has reached the state of levitation, which no one had seen coming until it was exhibited in room 15. The Chinese population, which was very large in Paris during the "Spring Asia" period, quickly made it possible to shift the focus and the interest aroused by the piece encouraged us to study it more closely. The Ming statuette became a product of the Kingdom of Dali dating from the 12th-13th century. Works from this period are rare but much more attention has been paid to them since a Buddha (h. 28 cm) fetched €1,098,000 at Doutrebente on 23 May 2014, France. Last 12 December, a guanyin (h. 45.5 cm) appeared in all its majesty and sold for €762,500 (Paris Enchères-Collin du Bocage auction house). This 46-cm high Buddha – an important detail when you know that most of them do not exceed 10 cm – sold for a record-breaking €2,560,000, one of the highest bids ever achieved by a bronze from this kingdom, whose art was revealed by the work of American scholar Helen Burwell Chapin (1892-1950) published in 1944. In particular, she showed that many representations of the Enlightened One that could be attached to it were scattered in Western collections. The small kingdom of Dali was located in valleys at the junction of trade routes, hence its richness and encounter with styles from India as well as Tibet or other tribes in northern China. Its temples glittered with the gold of thousands of bronze statues.

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