3703
3703
 A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF A MYTHICAL BEAST
MARK AND PERIOD OF XUANDE
Estimate
1,200,0001,500,000
JUMP TO LOT
3703
 A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF A MYTHICAL BEAST
MARK AND PERIOD OF XUANDE
Estimate
1,200,0001,500,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Important Chinese Art

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Hong Kong

 A GILT-BRONZE FIGURE OF A MYTHICAL BEAST
MARK AND PERIOD OF XUANDE
depicted recumbent, its head supported on its front paws and detailed with bulging round eyes, flaring nostrils and a coiling mane, turning sharply backwards looking at his bushy tail curled alongside its rear haunches, its body finely detailed with a knobby spine and delicate fur, the base with a four-character reign mark within a rectangular cartouche
9.6 cm, 3 3/4  in.
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Catalogue Note

This outstanding gilt-bronze figure of a recumbent lion is one of a small number of high-quality paperweights dating to the early Ming dynasty. Heavily cast and intricately modelled with varying layers of relief delineating the animal in full naturalistic detail and richly gilded, it is in itself a masterpiece of early Ming craftsmanship, not to be confused with the large number of later Ming wares bearing apocryphal Xuande marks.

For another Xuande reign-marked example from the Xiaogushan Guan studio collection, see Rochers de lettrés, Itinéraires de l'Art en Chine, Musée des Arts Asiatiques Guimet, Paris, 2012, cat. no. 58. For other gilt-bronze wares cast with genuine Xuande reign marks, see the discussion on a gilt-bronze incense burner and cover in the form of a duck, sold in these rooms, 8th April 2014, lot 85. Compare also a Xuande reign-marked 'dragon' incense burner, sold in these rooms, 5th October 2011, lot 1943, where, as in the current piece, the quality and weight of the casting, boldness of the detailing and brilliance of the gilding, distinguish it from later interpretations.

Paperweights in the form of animal figures have their origin in mat weights from antiquity. For a pair of Western Han silver-inlaid bronze weights in the form of tigers, preserved in the Miho Museum in Japan, see Ancient Art from the Shumei Family Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1986, cat. no. 65. For another early Ming dynasty bronze 'lion' paperweight, partially gilt and inlaid with semi-precious, preserved in the Victoria & Albert Museum (Salting Bequest, M.741-1910), see Rose Kerr, Later Chinese Bronzes, London, 1990, p.88, pl.72. The V & A example shares several features with the current lot, notably similar modelling in the round, detailed layering of the flaming mane, knobbed spine and proud, alert facial features. See also a Yuan / early Ming dynasty gilt-bronze and hardstone-inlaid paperweight in the form of two young chilong depicted in confrontation, sold in these rooms, 31st October 2004, lot 14, which is closely related to the current piece in terms of the bold and naturalistic articulation of the muscular body and fur, through varying layers of relief, and in the richness of the gilding. For a Ming dynasty jade paperweight, worked in the form of an imaginary beast with similar crouching posture and delineation of the mane and muscular body as the current piece, see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Jade from the Neolithic to the Qing, British Museum, London, 1995, cat. no. 26:17. 

For two stone pillars at the Ming Tombs of Changling, carved circa 1426, and surmounted by recumbent mythical beasts, the first of a qilin, the second of a recumbent lion with iconography closely related to the current lion, see Osvald Siren, Histoire des Arts Anciens de la Chine. III, La Sculpture de L'Époque Han à l'Époque Ming, Paris and Brussels, 1930, pls. 126C and 126D.

Important Chinese Art

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Hong Kong