548
548

A JAPANESE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF CHINESE BRONZE MIRRORS

A BRONZE HEXAFOIL 'FLORAL' MIRROR
TANG DYNASTY
Estimate
80,000120,000
LOT SOLD. 100,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT
548

A JAPANESE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF CHINESE BRONZE MIRRORS

A BRONZE HEXAFOIL 'FLORAL' MIRROR
TANG DYNASTY
Estimate
80,000120,000
LOT SOLD. 100,000 HKD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Chinese ‎Art including Selected Works of Art from the T.Y. Chao Family Collection

|
Hong Kong

A BRONZE HEXAFOIL 'FLORAL' MIRROR
TANG DYNASTY
crisply cast in relief, the pierced central knob surrounded by four composite sprays of flowers within a raised six-lobed rim, the surface with a silvery grey patina
18.9 cm, 7 1/2  in.
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Catalogue Note

Chinese bronze mirrors are highly sophisticated in their decorative patterns and casting techniques. They were traded throughout East, North, and Central Asia and exerted a tremendous cultural influence. The oldest Chinese bronze mirror dates from roughly 1900-1800 BC and was found in an area around modern-day Xinjiang, Gansu, and Qinghai. The polished surface of a bronze mirror is reflective, while the obverse side is patterned. The decoration on the oldest bronze mirrors was confined to simple geometric shapes, but on later examples it became increasingly varied as casting techniques became increasingly advanced. The lots presently on offer, mostly dating to the Tang, Song, Ming and Qing periods, are fine examples of Chinese bronze mirrors.

Decorative design

Exemplary of the richly variated decorative programs of later Chinese bronze mirrors, these mirrors depict animals, floral subjects, human figures, and narratives. The floral patterns are sometimes extremely dense and fine, encircling the entirety of the back of a mirror. The designers’ ingenuity is reflected in animal figures such as the lions on the mirrors with patterns of auspicious creatures and grapes, as well as human figures like Daoist immortals, Buddhist deities and the protagonists of the story of Xu You and Chao Fu. Some Ming-dynasty mirrors bear only a simple pattern of concentric circles and are distinguished by textual inscriptions of Han style. These express auspicious wishes that were intended to attract buyers.

Casting techniques

Aside from the usual bronze mirrors, brass mirrors were also produced in ancient China. Bronze is an alloy of copper, tin, and lead; brass is one of copper and zinc. The two alloys can only sometimes be distinguished by microscopic examination. If a mirror contains a high concentration of tin, it turns into a silvery white colour after casting and can produce a very clear specular reflection. Tin increases the hardness of bronze and thus the clarity and detail of its cast decoration, but also makes it brittle. A high concentration of lead makes a mirror more tensile and resistant to cracking, but reduces the clarity of its reflection and decorative patterns. On the whole, the lots on offer have a high concentration of tin, as indicated by the clarity and detail of their decorative patterns. These include in particular the few Tang-dynasty bronze mirrors. Their reflective surfaces would have appeared in a silvery white tone at the time of casting, although they have been subsequently corroded.

Uses

Chinese bronze mirrors come in two basic types. The first includes a handle on one end that allows the user to hold it up. The other includes a holed knob on the back that allows the user to pass a cord through it and lift it using the cord. From the Shang dynasty onwards, the latter type became predominant. The majority of the lots on offer include knobs.

After the Warring States Period, Chinese bronze mirrors were distributed throughout the Asian continent, earning the admiration of various cultures with their beautiful decoration and fine craftsmanship.

Kin Sum Sammy Li

Chinese ‎Art including Selected Works of Art from the T.Y. Chao Family Collection

|
Hong Kong