Dealer Giuseppe Eskenazi with a pair of limestone hands clutching a reliquary, a Northern Qi limestone fragment. Price on application.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

They belonged to a monumental figure of Kashyapa, the great ascetic who renounced a life of riches to follow Buddha, that stood in the imperially-sponsored ‘Shakyamuni Cave’ at the Xiangtangshan cave temples in Hebei province. The reliquary clutched in the hands perhaps references the legend that Kashyapa is said to have personally carried one share of the Buddha’s ashes to the king of Magada.

The hands have been extensively published since the 1930s and most recently were included in an exhibition project organised by the University of Chicago.

The fragment is among the highlights of the exhibition, Six Dynasties art from the Norman A Kurland Collection, Part one, to be held at Eskenazi from November 2-25.

Norman Kurland, an American film and television agent, acquired and studied the art of this period for four decades.