Sri Lankan temple 'Moonstone' auctions in London on April 23

A detailed temple moonstone, believed to be of Sri Lankan origin, is to auction at Bonhams London on April 23.

The carved granite temple step, which is valued at £20,000-30,000 ($30,000-45,000), came to light in the garden of a Devonshire, UK bungalow. Bonhams' Sam Tuke reports its present owner as commenting that "she had known and loved it since she was four years old".

Sri Lanka moonstone auction
The granite temple step is known as a “Moonstone” because of its crescent shape

"She loved running her fingers around the animals carved into the stone," Tuke said.

Equivalent "Moonstones" can be found in Sri Lanka's ancient city of Anuradhapura, and at some of the country's most culturally significant and beautiful monuments. The temple step features a curved procession of animals, including lions, birds, elephants and horses. It has been called a "museum piece" by Bonhams' Alice Bailey - a specialist in Indian and Islamic art.

The stone, which is known affectionately as "The Pebble" by its present owners, measures eight foot by four foot and weighs a hefty ¾ of a ton.

The temple stone was originally removed from "Brakenhill", an early 20th century Tudor revival property in East Sussex, UK. One-time home of William Murdoch Tyne - a Scottish civil engineer who worked in Ceylon between 1915 and 1937 - the house passed into the possession of the stone's present owners following Murdoch Tyne's death.

It was moved from "Brakenhill" to the present owner's garden in Devonshire following the death of her father. "She explained she could not bear to leave the stone behind after her father died and the house was sold," Sam Tuke explains.

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