An important and very rare gold 'winged' cup. Western Han dynasty, 3rd-2nd century BC. © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

The deep oval cup raised on a flat foot of conforming outline, with a pair of everted flange handles of shaped outline flaring slightly upward from the rim and engraved on top with angular scrolls reserved on a ground of fine parallel lines; 4¾ in. (12 cm.) long, box. Wt. 252.4 g. Estimate: $800,000 - $1,200,000

Provenance: A.W. Bahr Collection, Weybridge, England.
Edna Bahr, Connecticut, late 1960s.

Exhibited: R.H. Ellsworth, Ltd., "International Antiques Dealers Show", Park Avenue Armory, New York, October 1991.

Notes: This important and exceptionally rare gold 'winged' cup would likely have been a treasured vessel of an aristocrat. Previously in the collection of the renowned collector A.W. Bahr, it is similar in shape to 'winged' cups made of painted lacquer found in mid-Warring States (4th-3rd century BC) tombs of the Chu State at Yutaishan, Jiangling, Hubei province, some of which are illustrated by Teng Rensheng, Lacquer Wares of the Chu Kingdom, Hong Kong, 1992, pp. 12-3, pls. 1-3 and pp. 95-7, figs. 2,3,5 and 6. The decoration on all of the illustrated cups is different, but the decoration on the cup illustrated as pl. 1 is the most similar to the engraved decoration on the present cup. (Fig. 1) The particular shape of these excavated cups, referred to as yubei, and the present gold cup - an oval bowl with angular projecting handles - seen as early as the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC), continued during the Warring States period, but is thought to have disappeared by the Han dynasty. It was one of the prescribed shapes of lacquer vessels made during the Warring States period, along with the more common cup with rounded 'ear'-shaped handles (erbei), which did continue to be made during the Han dynasty. The lacquer cups, which were used for drinking wine or broth as well as for holding food, were painted with decoration taken from the designs of contemporary textiles, and were prominently included in tombs of the period. Like the lacquer cups, the handles of the present cup are also decorated with textile-inspired designs, but are engraved rather than painted. It is the erbei not the yubei cup that is usually found made from other materials such as bronze, glazed pottery, shell and jade.

Although some gold vessels have been found in tombs dating to the 5th century BC, including that of the Marquis Yi of Zeng in Hubei province, no other gold cup like the present cup appears to have been found. The State of Zeng, which was also in present-day Hubei province, had close ties to the State of Chu, which owed much of its prosperity to its production of gold. The tomb of the Marquis of Zeng contained a rich array of objects made from many different materials, including gold. Some of these, a ding-like bowl and cover, a tumbler with cover, a ladle and some additional vessel covers, are illustrated by Han Wei and Christian Deydier, Ancient Chinese Gold, Paris, 2001, pp. 58-60, pls. 97-9.

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1292. A rare gold funerary mask. Liao dynasty (907-1125). © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

Worked from thin gold sheet, with a decorative border stamped at the outer edge, the sheet crimped over the mouth, the nose, ears, eyes and brows which are incised with hair markings, as is a mustache above the mouth, with creases and wrinkles in the gold, the stamped design of the border also seen on two 'ribbons' attached to the back edges just above the ears and attached by four narrow straps of gold to a central circular medallion with stamped decoration, a bead center and outer bead border, four further straps attached to the back edge above the forehead also attached to the medallion to form a 'net' that would have fit over the top of the head; 8 in. (20.3 cm.) high, box. Wt. 103.3 g. Estimate : $100,000 - $150,000. Price realised USD 146,500

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

Notes: During the Eastern Zhou period (770-256 BC) jade was used to cover the the faces of deceased members of the elite in China, a practice which continued into the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 202), and then appears to have ceased. Archaeological evidence shows that burial masks were in use in areas west of China from the second to the eighth century, which may have been the inspiration for the use of funerary masks of different metals during the Liao dynasty (907-1125). Excavations of Liao tombs have revealed masks made of copper, bronze, gilded bronze, silver, and the discovery in 2003 of the Liao dynasty tomb of the Princess of Chen and her husband, Xiao Shaoju, provided archaeological evidence of burial masks being made from gold sheet. The status of the deceased appears to have dictated which metal was used. The shape, size and details of the individualized masks also varied.

Two gold funerary masks of a type similar to the present example are illustrated in Chinesisches Gold und Silber: Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry, Museum Reitberg, Zürich, 1994, pp. 212-3, nos. 239 and 241, as well as a similar 'net' of eight narrow straps radiating from a central circular medallion. Another was sold at Sotheby's, New York, 9 December 1987, lot 155; and two along with a 'net' were sold in our New York rooms, 1 June 1988, lot 34.

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1291. A group of rare gold plaques. Western Zhou dynasty, Qin culture, circa 9th-8th century BC. © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

Made from thick hammered gold sheet and with chased decoration, the largest of elongated arrow shape with elongated C-scrolls and pierced near the edges of the upper section for attachment; two of the plaques of slightly rhomboid shape with short extensions at two opposing corners, with hooked scrolls surrounding an oblong 'eye', the corners pierced; the fourth of rectangular shape with one barbed edge, with a band of conforming shape bordering two scale-shaped motifs, with double piercings at two corners; 13 7/8, 4 5/8 and 4¾ in. (34.7, 11.8 and 12 cm.) long, box. Wt. 178.8, 55.5, 79.5 and 64.7 g. (4). Estimate : $30,000 - $50,000. Price realised USD 25,000

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong in the 1980s.

Notes: These rare gold sheet plaques are very similar to a group illustrated by Han Wei and Christian Deydier, Ancient Chinese Gold, Paris, 2001, pp. 28-31, pls. 20-25, which are dated Western Zhou dynasty, Qin culture, and are in a private collection. The authors discuss the discovery of a tomb in the east of Dabaozi mountain in Li county, Gansu province. The tomb was attributed to a nobleman of the state of Qin, possibly the Qin Marquis Zhong (845-822 BC), or his son the Qin Duke of Zhuang (822-778 BC), and contained gold sheet and gold objects, including "a set of gold sheets of fish-scale-like shape, square but with round, rectangular angles etc. and adorned with a lip design and C-shaped clouds".

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1287. A rare gold fitting with glass inlay. Warring States period, 5th-3rd century BC. © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

The tubular fitting terminating in a dragon head with ridged snout and a scrolling mane on either side trailing backwards from the curved brows set above glass-inlaid eyes, with a small blue glass bead on the top of the head and a loose, twisted ring pendent from the mouth, the remains of an iron core visible at the opposite end which is encircled by a double bow-string band; 3 in. (7.6 cm.) long, ring 1½ in. (3.9 cm.) diam., box. Wt. 90.8 g. Estimate: $30,000 - $40,000. Price realised USD 50,000.

Provenance: Alice Boney, New York, 1953.

Notes: A pair of gold dragon-head fittings of this type without loose rings, excavated between 1974-78 from the 4th century BC Warring States tomb of King Cuo, at Lingshou, the ancient capital of the State of Zhongshan in present-day Pingshan county, in Hebei province, is illustrated by Han Wei and Christian Deydier, Ancient Chinese Gold, Paris, 2001, p. 53, no. 87, where they are described as chariot fittings. The eyes of the dragons are in silver which would have surrounded pupils inlaid in stones or glass, similar to the glass inlaid pupils of the present dragon head. The sides and front of the mouth of the excavated fittings are hollow indicating that they may have suspended a ring of some kind. See, also, the pair of gold and silver-inlaid bronze fittings of this type with dragon-head terminals dated 4th-3rd century BC illustrated by C. Delacour, De bronzes, d'or et d'argent: Arts somptuaires de la Chine, Musée Guimet, Paris, 2001, pp. 145-7. A loop at the front of the jaws is formed by the curved body of a raptor.

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1290. A rare pair of gold foil-decorated bronze harness fittings. Warring States period, 5th-4th century BC. © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

Each comprised of a domed bronze ring from which project three posts surmounted by taotie masks covered in gold foil, the outward-facing masks with protruding tongue, small nose, bulbous eyes below small ears and curved horns, with areas of beaded detailing, with malachite green and azurite encrustation; 2 in. (5 cm.) across. Wt. 87.1 and 88.8 g. (2). Estimate : $25,000 - $35,000. Price realised USD 32,500

Provenance: Alice Boney, New York, 1953.

Notes: Compare the similar harness fitting, illustrated by B. Gyllensvärd, Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, 1953, pp. 64-5, no. 3, later sold at Sotheby's, London, 14 May 2008, lot 12. A similar fitting was excavated from a large pit filled with the remains of chariots and horses at a Warring States site at Fengxiang Doufu village in Shaanxi province. A pair of fittings of similar type, but with silver masks surmounting each post, excavated 1974-78 from the tomb of King Cuo (r. 327-313 BC), State of Zhongshan, in Lingshou, present-day Pingshan county, Hebei province, is illustrated by Han Wei and Christian Deydier, Ancient Chinese Gold, Paris, 2001, p. 53, no. 86.

Stylistically the masks are similar to late Spring and Autumn period (5th-4th century BC) masks cast at the Houma foundry in southern Shanxi province, as evidenced by molds excavated at the foundry site, 1957-1965. Such a mold is illustrated in Art of the Houma Foundry, Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province, Princeton, New Jersey, 1996, p. 168, no. 180.

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1282. A very rare turquoise-inlaid gold tubular fitting. Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 8). © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

Probably from Shandong province, the heavily cast fitting encircled by five ribs with narrow raised borders and inlaid around the sides with turquoise chips, those at the ends and in the middle of triangular shape and those between in the shape of small cabochons, with traces of cinnabar on the interior; 4½ in. (11.5 cm.) long. Wt. 106.8 g. Estimate: $20,000 - $30,000. Price realised USD 47,500

From the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection.

Provenance: Alice Boney, Japan, 1960s.

Notes: No other gold fitting of this type appears to have been published. Based on the shape it might have been part of a handle. The use of gold and turquoise inlay, as well as the simple, elegant shape, appear to relate it to gold pieces of this date from Northern China.

Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1289. Two rare gold monster-mask fittings. Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-256 BC). © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

Each cast in high relief as a taotie mask with incised and granulated decoration, one more in openwork with the short curved bodies of two dragons flanking the eyes below curved horns and outward-curved projections, the other, broader mask with curved tusks ending in pointed tips projecting either side of the nose; 2¾ and 2 7/8 in. (7 and 7.3 cm.) wide. Wt. 35.7 and 36.7 g. (2). Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000. Price realised USD 32,500

Provenance: A.W. Bahr Collection, Weybridge, England.
Edna Bahr, Connecticut, late 1960s.

Notes: A group of similar cast gold masks of varying sizes (2.9-8.3 cm. wide) dated to the Warring States period (475-221 BC) are illustrated in Celestial Creations: Art of the Chinese Goldsmith - The Cheng Xun Tang Collection - I- , Art Museum, Institute of Chinese Studies, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2007, p. 65, no. A30. The authors note that similar gold plaques have been recovered from tombs of the Spring and Autumn to Warring States periods in Baoji and Fengxiang, Shaanxi province.

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.


Lot 1298. A rare gold filigree hair ornament. Ming dynasty (1368-1644). © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

Made to cover a topknot and in the shape of a domed oval with parallel 'ribs' of twisted and plain fine gold wire interrupted by a horizontal band of florets across the top, with flower sprigs in the corners and applied with two flower heads with recesses for inlay, with flared openwork projections in front, to the sides and in back where two 'ribbons' extend from the rim, all filled with foliate filigree; with two gold hair pins that are inserted in either end at the bottom of the band of florets. 4¾ in. (12 cm.) wide, 4 7/8 in. (12.4 cm.) deep, box - Wt. 97.9 g. (3) - Estimate: $15,000 - $25,000. Price realised USD 27,500

Provenance: A.W. Bahr Collection, Weybridge, England.
Edna Bahr, Connecticut, late 1960s.

Notes: Gold hair ornaments of this type, meant to be used as a cap for a man's topknot, appear to be quite rare. An excavated example with hardstone inlay, dated to the Ming dynasty, is illustrated in Zhongguo Wenwu Jingjin Daquan - Jin Yin Yu Shi Juan, Hong Kong, 1994, p. 149, no. 174. Another, also dated to the Ming dynasty, is illustrated by Emma C. Bunker and Julia M. White et al., Adornment for the Body and Soul: Ancient Chinese Ornaments from the Mengdiexuan Collection, The University Museum and Art Gallery, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1999, no. 138.

A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. 26 March 2010. New York, Rockefeller www.christies.com