My favourite work from 2014 was a little Chinese gilt bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha that was offered in our pan-Asian sale, The Sublime and the Beautiful: Asian Masterpieces of Devotion.
The bronze is only five inches high, and is far from the most beautiful work of sculpture to be offered in that amazing sale. Yet its humble appearance belies an epic exchange of ideas that I find personally fascinating. While the work was made in China, it is stylistically and iconographically based on an Indian style of sculpture, which in turn borrowed stylistic elements from the classical Greek and Roman sculptural traditions.
These three cultures, thousands of miles apart, were linked by the Silk Road, and along with silk and spices, merchants carried the religious and devotional images they worshipped. Along the way, each culture made certain adjustments to fit their way of life and their surroundings; nonetheless, this little figure of Buddha illustrates the extent that the world was already a globalized culture more than 1,500 years ago.
A rare small gilt-bronze figure of Shakyamuni Buddha, China, Sixteen Kingdoms Period (304-439)