A Pair of rare gilt-bronze 'dragon' ornaments. Qing dynasty, 18th century. Photo Sotheby's

possibly made as lantern hooks, each of 'J'-shape made from two mirrored sections soldered together with the interior left hollow, the broader arched upper section set with a dragon-head with large eyes, a long tongue thrust out, curling whiskers and horns atop its head, the sinuous scaled body with powerful legs and five-claws on each foot, winding through layers of ruyi clouds with reticulated openings, tapering to a hook formed by the curved body of a second dragon writhing through clouds, terminating in a dragon head with similar features, the two dragon heads set confronting each other on either ends; length 53.5 cm., 21 1/8 in. Estimate 350,000—400,000 HKD. Lot Sold 3,380,000 HKD (433,333 USD) to an Asian Private

EXHIBITED: Chugoku Bijutsu ten series 5 (Chinese Art Exhibition Series 5) Minshin no Bijutsu ('Arts of Ming and Ch 'ing Dynasties'), Osaka Municiple Museum, Osaka 1980, cat. no. 3-15.

NOTE: Exquisitely cast in openwork to depict two dragons emerging amidst swirling clouds, the fine craftsmanship of the present piece is reminiscent of the level and style associated with gold of the same period, and no other related example appears to have been published. Dragons represent high rank and power while two facing dragons traditionally symbolise a happy reunion. This piece may have been used as a hook and its curvaceous form appears to be loosely based on much smaller garment hooks of the Warring States period (475-221BC), such as one in the Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, included in the Inaugural Exhibition. Chinese Metalwares and Decorative Arts, The Museum of East Asian Art, Bath, 1993, cat. no. 238.

Sotheby's. Vestiges from China's Imperial History, 08 Apr 11, Hong Kong www.sothebys.com