DETROIT, MICH. — DuMouchelles reported the successful sale of a rare early Chinese gilded bronze Luohan statue for $930,000 this fall. This masterfully cast figure of a Buddhist Arhat was a find that had been tucked away in a local garage for years before being brought to DuMouchelles. Its sale marked a monumental event for the consignor.
“We are thrilled with the incredible result achieved for this important sculpture this season,” said chairwoman Joan DuMouchelle Walker. “Its sale for nearly $1 million, setting a new auction record for bronzes of this subject and size this year, speaks to our capabilities in serving clients whether they walk in off the street with a forgotten treasure or are looking to sell or buy at the highest levels. We have spent more than a century bringing unique and important artworks to market and look forward to the next fascinating piece walking through our doors.”
The statue, measuring 31 inches in height, represents a Luohan — the revered disciples of Buddha in Buddhism. These figures have been central to Chinese art since the Tang dynasty, symbolizing enlightenment and spiritual accomplishment. This particular Luohan is depicted seated in the Padmasana position, adorned in a monk’s robe. The artistic symbolism indicates the right hand in the Karana Mudra gestures to dispel negativity. A character mark on the reverse of the overhanging robe suggests an ordered placement within a temple complex.
This Luohan stands out for its superb casting and style, reminiscent of sculptures from the late Song dynasty (960-1279) and the subsequent Mongol-led Yuan state (1271-1368). While such figures were often crafted in ceramic and wood, this bronze sculpture demonstrates a significant investment with exceptional artistry, especially in the animated gestures, portraiture quality and the fluid treatment of the drapery folds. Its stylistic characteristics and craftsmanship bear a striking resemblance to another Luohan figure previously sold at Christie’s, suggesting they may have been part of the same set.
DuMouchelles president, Joe Walker recounted, “When this rare bronze was brought in, we knew it was special. The craftsmanship of the hands and face, its heft and the fine patina acquired over hundreds of years all pointed to it being a significant early piece.”
This Luohan, which had been stored in the owner’s garage for years after being saved from the dumpster, symbolizes a connection far beyond its geographical origin. The quest to understand the statue’s provenance led to a collaboration between DuMouchelles and the Tsz Shan Monastery Museum in Hong Kong. It was revealed that both Luohans may have originated from the same set based on similar ordered placement inscriptions found on their overhanging robes.
A corresponding statue, also seated on an identical wooden base that may not be original to the piece, adorned with a similarly styled robe, was recognized within the Penn Museum in Philadelphia’s collection, a piece acquired in 1914. The striking similarities among the three Luohans suggest they may have been originally part of a set, later dispersed and their relationship rediscovered through diligent research.
The winning bidder for the Luohan was an Asian art gallery, which sent specialists to preview and bid in-person. Robert DuMouchelle, auctioneer of the Luohan and general manager of DuMouchelles, commented, “Having bidders travel from China and other countries to participate in the auction, shows the world-class offerings we source for our sales. The story of this remarkable sculpture, now continuing its centuries-long journey in the hands of a new caretaker, serves as another example of the role the company has gratefully fulfilled as stewards of pieces of history. DuMouchelles looks ahead to more occasions to connect exceptional objects with appreciative collectors from Detroit to Asia, Europe and beyond.”
Price reported includes the buyer’s premium as stated by the auction house. A video of the of the sale can be seen on @dumouchelles Instagram.
For information, 313-963-6255 or www.dumoart.com.