Lot 8071. A silver circular box and cover, Tang dynasty; 1 5/8in (4cm) diameterEstimate US$ 8,000 - 12,000 (€7,200 - 11,000)Sold for US$ 50,000 (€ 40,610). Photo: Bonhams 2015.

The box and cover finely worked with bands of foliate scrolls on a stippled ground, enclosing on the slightly domed cover a roaring lion and on the flattened box a duck perching on a flowering lotus pod, fitted box. 

ProvenanceAn American private collection 
Christie's New York, Important Chinese Works from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, sale 8064, 1 December 1994, lot 63
Desmond Gure Collection, no.87 (label)

ExhibitedVenice, Mostra d'Arte Cinese, 1954, no. 271
London, Oriental Ceramic Society, The Arts of the T'ang Dynasty, 1955, no. 340

NotesThe lion is an animal not native to China, and the Chinese term 獅子 shizi may be derived from the Persian šír: see C. Michaelson, Gilded Dragons: Buried Treasures from China's Golden Ages, London, 1999, p. 122. The association of the lion with Buddhism, and with the promulgation and defence of this religion, may explain its popularity on Tang period objects. The lotus too bears Buddhist connotations of purity, whilst also symbolizing fertility with its prominent seed pod, and the mandarin duck is associated with conjugal happiness. Pairs of ducks are more commonly found on Tang pieces, whilst the single duck with a lotus is more rare. The combination of all these subtle references is indicative of the cosmopolitan and religiously diverse Tang period, and its pervasive influence on later Chinese dynasties. 

Compare two related boxes and covers from the Collection of Carl Kempe, with similar scrolls and animal motifs, sold at Sotheby's London, Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork, Early Gold and Silver; Early Chinese White, Green and Black Wares, sale 8211, 14 May 2008, lots 42 and 81. Another previously in the Collection of Dr Ip Yee sold at Sotheby's New York, sale 9006, 17 September 2013, lot 33.