An extremely rare large archaic bronze ritual 'snake' lamp Warring States period - early Western Han dynasty | 戰國至西漢初期 青銅蛇燈
An extremely rare large archaic bronze ritual 'snake' lamp
Warring States period - early Western Han dynasty
h. 55.2 cm
The dating of this lot is consistent with the results of a thermoluminescence test, Oxford Authentication, Ltd., no. C204c75.
Xray images reveal there is a restored break on the upper body and another at the tip of the tail. Otherwise in good condition, with just typical oxidisation. The finely cast details of the snake's scaly body are well preserved throughout.
The lot is sold in the condition it is in at the time of sale. The condition report is provided to assist you with assessing the condition of the lot and is for guidance only. Any reference to condition in the condition report for the lot does not amount to a full description of condition. The images of the lot form part of the condition report for the lot. Certain images of the lot provided online may not accurately reflect the actual condition of the lot. In particular, the online images may represent colors and shades which are different to the lot's actual color and shades. The condition report for the lot may make reference to particular imperfections of the lot but you should note that the lot may have other faults not expressly referred to in the condition report for the lot or shown in the online images of the lot. The condition report may not refer to all faults, restoration, alteration or adaptation. The condition report is a statement of opinion only. For that reason, the condition report is not an alternative to taking your own professional advice regarding the condition of the lot. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS ONLINE CONDITION REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE/BUSINESS APPLICABLE TO THE RESPECTIVE SALE.
Snake-form lamps are very rare. Compare a Zhou Dynasty bronze ornament in the shape of a coiled snake in the Musée Guimet, Paris, illustrated in Alain Thote, 'Aspects of the Serpent on Eastern Zhou Bronzes and Lacquerware', Colloquies on Art and Archaeology in Asia, no. 15 : The Problem and Meaning in Early Chinese Ritual Bronzes, London, 1990, p. 152, pl. 3. In his article, Thote explores the importance of snakes as a Chu design element. The complicated interlacing snake design can be seen on the bronze zun and pan from the fifth century Chu State tomb of Zeng Hou Yi, at Leigudun, Hubei province, illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji, vol. 10, Beijing, 1998, pl. 137, as well as the painted lacquer inner coffin also recovered from this tomb and illustrated in Alain Thote, 'Double Coffin of Leigudun Tomb No. 1', New Perspectives on Chu Culture, During the Eastern Zhou Period, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, 1991, fig. 2.
The snake in the present lot is simpler in design compared to that found in the Zeng Hou Yi tomb, which may indicate that it was made slightly later, but appears to have been influenced by the art of the Chu State.
Han Dynasty lamps of this type are more commonly found as goose-foot lamps. A smaller (47cm) goose foot lamp is illustrated in Eskenazi, Animals and animal designs in Chinese Art, London, 1998, no. 6. Two smaller goose foot lamps in the Shanghai Museum are illustrated in Important Inscribed Ancient Chinese Bronze Vessels in the Li Yingshuan Collection, Shanghai Museum, 1996, nos. 30 and 31, and another from the collection of Dr. David Ho, dated to 33BC, was sold in our London rooms, 3rd November 2021, lot 120.