When a Buddha sells for more than half a million euros

When a Buddha sells for more than half a million euros

Buddha Bodhisattva from the Jin dynasty (1115 - 1234 BC) in wood from the Rousset Sale estimated between 1 and 1.5 million euros.

Consisting of sculptures and objects from India, Tibet, Nepal and China, the two collections presented for sale by Bonhams, one in June, the other in October, have some similarities. They were collected by Western enthusiasts, but with very different approaches.

The first collection, the first part of which – out of four – was sold on June 14, 2022, belonged to Claude de Marteau, a true old-fashioned adventurer. “Left from Brussels, he wanted to reach the United States, got stuck in Morocco, went the other way and set out to cross Asia by hitchhiking, laughs Edward Wilkinson, department manager of Bonhams. He then went back and forth between Brussels and Asia for about ten years, from 1956 to 1965.”

In the trunk of his Cadillac, the adventurer brought back sculptures then totally unknown on the Western market: a relief panel, in schist, representing Buddha entering Rajagriha around the IIe century, sold for 78,495 euros, or a sandstone Ganesh stele from the 10the century, pre-empted by the Guimet Museum for 75,975 euros. The sale totaled nearly 3.5 million euros in total, an amount to which the gray schist Buddha from Gandhara contributed significantly, soaring to 567,375 euros.

Do not saturate the market

This region located at the crossroads of exchanges between China, India and the West has undergone multiple influences, which can be found on this statue steeped in classical Greek culture. It was one of Claude de Marteau’s specialties. The study of this collection, in the hands of Bonhams since 2016, has allowed research, in particular on the workshops and monasteries from which the sculptures come: “The attributions are always complex, because of oral traditions and Chinese repression, especially at the time of the Cultural Revolution”underlines the expert. “If Claude de Marteau had a very great aesthetic sense, acquired alone since there is no trace of the existence of a mentor in this field, he did not always know everything about his works”, he adds.

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Any other atmosphere in the family owning the second collection, auctioned on October 25 and 26: the Rousset. Heir Mike Winter-Rousset carefully keeps archives dating back to the origins of this collection, in the 1920s. No adventurer on this side, but an insurer, Robert Rousset, who, after visiting the Forbidden City in Beijing, launches into the trade of ancient Asian art. He then bought the gallery of the Compagnie de la Chine et des Indes, which has remained in the family until today.

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