Copper in the Arts

April 2019

Garage Sale Bronze Statue Featured on Antiques Roadshow Sells at Sotheby’s for $2.1 Million

Paul David

ARoadshow_Buddha.jpgA gilt-bronze figure of the Chinese Buddhist deity
Cintamanicakra Avalokiteshvara dating to the late
Tang Dynasty / Five Dynasties sold for $2.1 million.
Photo: Sotheby's.

Last month, a garage-sale find became a Sotheby’s star, after a stint on Antique’s Roadshow revealed the true value of a bronze Buddhist statue.

At Sotheby’s, the rare gilt-bronze figure of the Chinese Buddhist deity Cintamanicakra Avalokiteshvara dating to the late Tang Dynasty sold for $2.1 million, following a seven-minute bidding battle.

The seller had brought the piece to an Antiques Roadshow appraisal event in St. Louis, recalling that she had purchased the work at a garage sale some 20 years prior for approximately $100. The work came to auction with a pre-sale estimate of $60,000 to $80,000.

Antiques Roadshow expert Robert Waterhouse told the seller the statue was a gilt bronze depiction of the Chinese Buddhist deity, and that, despite missing its original base, along with an arm and a hand, the quality and historic importance of the piece shone through.

The bronze sculpture depicted one of the most popular and well-known Buddhist deity in China, Avalokiteshvara, or Guanyin, is known by worshippers in many forms, among them Ekadashamuka, Amogopasha, Shadakshari, Water Moon Guanyin, and more rarely, Cintamanicakra. As Buddhism evolved in China, Avalokiteshvara’s varied forms were introduced through the transmission and translation of different sutras. Cintamanicakra is often depicted in the same attitude as the present, holding in the six arms the wish-granting jewel (cintamani) in front of the chest, the dharma wheel (chakra) in a raised palm, the stem of a lotus in another hand, a mala in another, and the sixth planted down for support.

The owner, who wished not to reveal her name, recalled how she acquired the statue during her appearance on the PBS show.

“There was a local person who was really a colourful character in Kirkwood, so I wanted to get to his garage sale,” she said. “I almost didn’t have time to acquire it as I was having 15 people for lunch. I rushed out, and the dealers had been there for two days before so I thought that everything good would be gone, but when I saw this I thought it was so beautiful, I just grabbed it.”

“Those who understand Buddhist works of art from that period would look at this object and say it’s beyond a very wealthy patron’s quality of bronze,” said Waterhouse. “So it’s likely that the quality would indicate that it’s an imperial piece.”

The owner was then shocked to discover that her $100 garage sale find was in fact worth up to $100,000, which Waterhouse stated was a “conservative” retail price.

And now, a year later, it seems that Waterhouse’s initial valuation was more than just a little “conservative”.


Sotheby’s, 1334 York Ave, New York, NY, (212) 606-7000

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