June 15, 2024

Art Sales: Half a million pounds for an Indian temple step found in a Devon garden!

Half a million pounds for a step?!

Of course it wasn’t just any old Indian temple step, if there is any such thing. This was a rare Buddhist Anuradhapura period carved step. The owners, Mike and Bronwyn Hickmott had struggled to get the stone valued, with TV programmes and auction houses refusing to believe it was special. However Sam Tuke of Bonhams’ Exeter office researched the provenance of the stone and was able to discover its history.

The carved granite temple step (Sandakada pahana) is similar to those found in the ancient city of Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka.  The beautiful 1,000 year old pre-Hindu stone step is one of only seven examples known to date from this period. The temple step is a feature unique to Sinhalese architecture in Sri Lanka. The massively heavy – three-quarters of a ton stone measure eight ft by four foot and is six inches thick.

There was a battle between buyers in the sales room and on the telephone for this remarkable find which finally sold for £553,250. The Hickmott’s commented after the sale ‘We are overwhelmed with the price achieved. It goes beyond all our expectations.’ Given that the pre-sale estimate was £20,000 to £30,000 I’d say that that’s a fair comment!

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