Lot 3068. An important and very rare gilt-bronze figure of Avalokitesvara, Song dynasty (960-1279);  6 3/4 in. (17.1 cm.) high. Estimate HKD 2,000,000 - HKD 3,000,000. Price Realized HKD 2,180,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2010 

The finely cast figure standing on a separate base of overlapping lotus petals, the hands in vitarka mudra, the hair swept up into a top-knot behind an ornate tiara above the full face and downcast eyes with a serene expression, the hair tied neatly with ribbons draped over both shoulders, the short outer skirt detailed with pleated folds partially concealing an inner long skirt falling in folds at the ground to reveal bare feet, Japanese lacquered double box.

Provenance: The Nitta Collection, Japan.

Exhibited: National Palace Museum, The Crucible of Compassion and Wisdom, Exhibition of Buddhist Bronzes from the Nitta Group Collection, Taipei, 1987, illustrated in the Catalogue pl. 139.

Note: Originally described as Korean and dated to the Koryo period, following the 1987 exhibition, the present figure was later deemed to be Chinese and dated to the Song dynasty on account of the very distinctive stylistic features of the headdress, facial expression and robes found only on Chinese figures of this period.

The question over the origin of this figure arises because gilt-bronze figures dating to the Song dynasty are extremely rare and few related examples have been published. A gilt-bronze figure of the Watermoon Guanyin dating to the Song dynasty displaying very similar facial features and with the same treatment of the belt tying the robes at the waist in the Cleveland Museum of Art is illustrated in Hai-Wai Yi-Chen, Buddhist Sculpture, vol. 2, Taipei, 1986, pl. 149. Compare the facial expression and relatively flattened casting of the robes with those found on another figure of Avalokitesvara dated to the 10th/11th century sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 3 November 1998, lot 1011. Compare, also, a related seated bronze Maitreya Bodhisattva in the British Museum dated to the 11th century, included in the exhibition Buddhism Art and Faith at the British Museum, London, 1985 and illustrated in the Catalogue, p. 204, no. 294. Another, larger Bodhisattva dated to the Song dynasty with similarly rendered facial expression and robes in the Shanghai Museum Collection is illustrated in Ancient Chinese Sculpture Gallery, The Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 1996, pl. 69.

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 1 December 2010, Hong Kong