Lot 550
  • 550

A RARE GILT-BRONZE 'MYTHICAL BEAST' WEIGHT MING DYNASTY, EARLY 15TH CENTURY |

Estimate
60,000 - 80,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

recumbent, the body twisting slightly to the left, the shoulders and left hip hunched beside the torso emphasizing the beast's brawny musculature, the face nestled between the front paws with the lip curling up exposing the fangs, the bulging eyes enlivened by the flame-like eyebrows, the horn emerging at the crest of the head and resting against the neck, the pommel-like nodes of the spine, the individual toes and the long strands of fur at the mane, beard and tail all finely articulated, the lustrous gilt well-preserved, wood stand (2)

Provenance

Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).

Catalogue Note

This bronze weight is exceptional for the extraordinary quality of its gilding and the fine details. The animal’s relaxed pose is rendered in a highly naturalistic manner, in contrast to its exaggerated bulging eyes and menacing teeth. Small animal sculptures such as the present were made from the early Ming dynasty, due to a renewed interest in the Xuande reign for bronze wares for the scholar’s desk. Examples from this period are however very rare, and no other paperweight of this form and design appears to have been published. Compare a paperweight in the form of a scaly mythical beast, included in the Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong exhibition Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Fung Ping Shan Museum, Hong Kong, 1986, cat. no. 194, together with a censer featuring dragons with related menacing features, inscribed with a Xuande mark and of the period, cat. no. 139; and another paperweight sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 4th April 2017, lot 68. Compare also a gilt-bronze bixie figure, attributed to the Song to Ming dynasty, from the John D. Rockefeller Collection now in the Asia Society, New York, acc. no. 1979.111.

Paperweights of this type originate from bronze mat weights made in the Western Han dynasty, although their popularity increased in the Tang when bronze and jade versions were made in relatively large numbers. A jade mythical animal carved in a similar pose and with a pronounced spine, was included in the exhibition Chinese Jade Throughout the Ages, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1975, cat. no. 196.

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