International specialists who had travelled to Surrey to view a collection of Indian and Himalayan bronzes formed by the late Andrew Soloman spotted a rarity among similar lots consigned from other properties.
Estimated at just £200-300, and considered by the auctioneers to be 19th century, a South Indian copper alloy figure of a devi sold to a US dealer in the room for £155,000 (plus 24% buyer’s premium) at John Nicholson’s in Fernhurst on April 18.
The 8in (20cm) figure, which had sat on the shelf of its owner’s home for the past 30 years, was probably cast in the Tamil Nadu region c.1000-1050.
It probably depicts the beautiful earth goddess Bhudevi, a consort of Vishnu. She stands on a lotus pedestal which is cast in one piece with a rectangular base.
Movable bronze icons were an intrinsic part of the Chola dynasty temples. A larger Chola bronze from the 12th century was the highlight of the Soloman collection that had been on view in Kensington Church Street the previous week.
Purchased from Sotheby’s in December 1971 (the original sale invoice was sold with the lot), this 18in (45cm) bronze depicted the four-armed Shiva Vinadhara holding the battle-axe and antelope in his upper hands. Although lacking its lotus and pedestal base, it took £220,000 against hopes of £30,000-50,000.
“The £155,000 was a bit of a surprise,” said Nicholson, “especially as we had spent a great deal of time cataloguing the sale and had correctly identified the importance of all the other pieces.
“Fortunately we had also spent a great deal of time promoting the sale and had attracted bidders from all over the world, not just on the internet but also to the saleroom itself.”