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“It is one of those areas that has taken a back seat in recent times but politics have bought focus back to it,” said Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian specialist Edward Wilkinson.

A gray schist Gandharan Buddha, 2ft 10in (86cm), stole the limelight in Sotheby’s Indian and Southeast Asian sale on September 20. Gandharan art is heavily influenced by Greek sculpture and this was visibly apparent in the treatment of the Buddha’s hair, the western facial features, and the pleating of the robe as it falls over the plain base.

Gifted in 1881 to Charterhouse, an entry in the 1965 school journal records how it came to rest in one of the Home Counties smartest public schools. “This image of Buddha was given to me [C. Pearson, a District Inspector of Schools] by the Khan of Dubyan, a village near Holi Mardan in the Peshawr District. It was found in a ploughed field with other remains of an image temple accidently exposed a year ago.”

Consigned by the school to raise funds for refurbishment, the Buddha was entered with an attractively pitched $100,000-150,000 estimate.
“I had people lining up and down the street wanting to buy it at $200,000,”
said Edward Wilkinson. Institutions, collectors and dealers all expressed interest but from around $500,000 there were three main contenders all acting through intermediaries in the room.

It eventually sold to an anonymous buyer bidding through a dealer for $600,000 (£400,000) – a new auction record for a Gandharan sculpture easily surpassing the $300,000 bid for a bodhisattva sold at Christie’s, October 2001.