An 11th-century Nepalese Buddhist figure that was initially purchased by a lucky collector for just US$1,000, sold at the recent Bonhams Images of Devotion auction for a staggering HK$2.75 million – 350 times its initial price. But surprisingly, this wasn’t to be the event’s star performer. That particular accolade went to A Schist Figure of Buddha, a beautiful third-century relic crafted from schist, a coarse-grained, layered metamorphic rock.
The almost pristinely preserved statue, which stands 122cm tall, was crafted in the ancient region of Gandhāra, now known as Peshawar, a part of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. Thanks to its unique location at the crossroads between East and West, Gandhāran artisans were renowned for creating Asian religious icons in an unusual Greco-Roman style.
It is precisely this unique influence that informs A Schist Figure of Buddha and sets it apart from the more typical statues of Buddha found across Asia. Add to this the fact that it also stands as a testament to the early spread of Buddhist art, and its final hammer price – a whopping HK$9.17 million – seems more than justified.