Rare wood Guanyin sculpture sees 2,908% increase on estimate

A rare and important wooden sculpture of the Buddhist deity Guanyin has sold with stunning results as part of Christie's last auction of 2012 - the Asian Art sale in Paris.

Yuan dynasty wooden guanyin sculpture
Wooden examples were common in the 13th and 14th century, but are now extremely rare

Originating from northern China, the magnificent sculpture sold for $11.9m in the French capital, making an impressive 2,908% increase on its $395,199 high estimate.

The remarkable sale took place as Western auction houses came under fire from the Chinese government once again for the sale of supposedly looted items.  

Created circa the 13th century, the sculpture depicts Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, and one of the most popular subjects in Buddhist art. Its iconography is based upon an ancient scripture, in which Guanyin is visited by the young pilgrim Sudhana.

Sudhana found Guanyin seated on the rocky shores of a grotto, contemplating the reflection of the Moon in the water. It is therefore believed that the sculpture would once have been placed on a rocky base.

Wooden sculptures such as this would have been common during China's Yuan dynasty (1279-1368), as the material is easier to work than bronze or iron. However, due to the use of wood, very few have survived and just a scarce number of comparable seated Guanyin figures are known, scattered across museums around the world.

A pair of important Hu vases sold with a 615.3% increase on the $197,600 high estimate. Realising just over $1m, the vases were produced during China's Qianlong period (1735-1796) and have been in a private French collection since the late 19th century.

Christie's states: "It is exceptional to find such rare archaistic imitation-bronze vases in pair together with their matching zitan stands".

While the auction may have been the last in 2012 from Christie's, collectors will have the chance to bid on more Asian Art in a New York sale to be held December 23, which features a gilt-bronze parrot jar.

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