Chinese Works of Art

Discoveries: A Tale of Two Chinese Bronze Figures

These two Chinese gilt bronze figures in the Important Chinese Art sale, which is in London on 8 November, were both picked up from routine enquiries to the Sotheby’s online valuation platform.

They had come down through the family of the consignor from Ernest Hamilton Sharp OBE (1861-1922), King’s Counsel for the Colony of Hong Kong. Apart from a provenance to the early 20th Century, to a man who would have had both the wealth and connections to buy good pieces, the unusual thing about the Buddha is the fact it is signed by the maker.  

Inscribed ‘Made by Chen Yanqing, from Qiantang’ it is a signature known on three other early bronze figures, one of which is in the Art Institute of Chicago, and another the Metropolitan Museum of New York.  

The bronze is notable for exquisite quality of casting and fine gilding with just light wear. The Buddha is beautifully serene and has a timeless quality, and how incredible that it is around 600 years old. 

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A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA, MING DYNASTY, EARLY 15TH CENTURY, IMPORTANT CHINESE ART, 8 NOVEMBER. ESTIMATE: £60,000-80,000

The second bronze from the same source is from the Qing dynasty so some 300 years later. It depicts Palden Lhamo (Glorious Goddess), the Tibetan form of the ancient Indian goddess Shridevi.

Palden Lhamo rides a mule whose haunch is marked with an eye, an iconographic element associated with an early myth surrounding Shridevi. Once, while queen of Sri Lanka, Shridevi strenuously objected to her husband's practice of human sacrifice and threatened to kill their son if her husband's barbarism did not cease. 

When human sacrifice continued, she carried out her promise. As the goddess mounted a mule (covered with the flayed skin of her son) to flee the kingdom, the king aimed an arrow in her direction, hitting the mule's haunch. Shridevi removed the arrow and magically transformed the wound into an eye, thus augmenting her powers to see and watch over the realms of the Buddhist faith

A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF PALDEN LHAMO, QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY, IMPORTANT CHINESE ART, 8 NOVEMBER. ESTIMATE: £10,000-15,000

Mark Stephen is Deputy Director in the London valuations department, responsible for online valuations with 35 years experience in the auction world. The variety and breadth of antique and often, not so-antique, objects and paintings sent to Sotheby’s via our on-line platform is an experience to see.  We sift through watches, jewellery, wine, paintings from every period, silver, ceramics and objects so bizarre they cannot be categorised.   The good, the bad, and the ugly of the antiques world passes through our hands on a daily basis. For more information and to have your objects valued click here.

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