The present plaque possesses several highly unusual features, particularly the reverse-painted rock crystal inset. No other examples of this type appear to be published. Compare a related smaller plaque of the same form, similarly cast with flames surrounding an arched cartouche, but enclosing a crested bird and inlaid with agate, attributed to the Northern Wei dynasty, exhibited in Chinese Archaic Bronzes, Sculpture and Works of Art, J.J. Lally & Co., New York, 1992, cat. no. 45, and published again in Pierre Uldry, Chinesisches Gold und Silber, Zurich, 1994, cat. no. 124. The ribbon-tied trefoil motif on the present lot can also be found on a gilt-bronze mythical beast mask, decorated above its head with a very similar motif, excavated from a Northern Wei dynasty tomb in Datong, Shanxi province, published in Gao Feng, 'Datong Hudong Beiwei yihao mu [Northern Wei dynasty tomb no. 1 at Hudong, Datong], Wenwu, no. 12, Beijing, 2004, p. 29, fig. 5.
While the exact function of the present plaque remains unclear, its elaborate decoration and frontal perspective may suggest that it was used as a hat ornament, as evidenced by a related pierced gold plaque embellishing the front of a reconstructed hat frame, dated Northern Yan dynasty (407-436), excavated at Beipiao, Liaoning province, exhibited in China. Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2004, cat. no. 15, fig. 9. Without the presence of the crystal inset, the present lot can also be compared stylistically to the mandorla behind Buddhist figures, such as a gilt-bronze mandorla from an altarpiece, dated to the year 524, cast with similarly styled openwork flames, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, published in Alan Priest, Chinese Sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1944, pl. XXIX.