Rare Chinese Buddha statue up for auction at Bonhams in Paris

(This June 10 story has been refiled to correct the spelling in reporting credit to Yiming Woo and not Yming Wood)

By Yiming Woo

PARIS (Reuters) - A rare Chinese Buddha statue, found in a French family home and part of a set thought to have been lost, is expected to fetch 1 million euros ($1.1 million) when it is auctioned on June 13 in Paris.

According to auction house Bonhams, the piece is a very rare wood figure, a religious work depicting the Buddhist Bodhisattva Guanyin made in the 12th-13th century under the Jin dynasty.

Over a metre high, the piece was last sold in the 1930s to a family in Boulogne, a suburb near Paris. The family wishes to remain anonymous.

Large sculptures such as the one to be sold were originally made for Buddhist temples.

The head of Bonhams Chinese art Caroline Schulten said the family was unaware of its value until they called her up for an estimate.

"It was passed down in the family to the present generation, and it had been sitting in a private home," she said.

"What has happened since then (the last sale) is that it has lost the fingers of the one hand...because they were clearly there when it was sold in 1932. So in between, I was told there were children playing football around it, so things happened, quite clearly," Schulten added.

Bonhams auction house says there are likely only a handful of such pieces left in the world, which are mostly in museums.

"This is one of the few that has survived, so it's quite possible that there are more pieces from this group that are still around in France or maybe in Belgium or Switzerland. And it's quite exciting to think that maybe the sale of this figure or the publicity around it will generate more people looking at home and realising that 'We’ve got a figure like that'," said Schulten. ($1 = 0.9305 euros)

(Reporting by Yiming Woo, editing by Dominique Vidalon and Hugh Lawson)