Lot 18. Property from the Cunliffe Collection of Chinese Art. A grey pottery figure of a three-horned mythical beast, Han Dynasty; 28cm (11in) long. Estimate £2,000 - 3,000 (€2,500 - 3,800). Sold for £ 6,250 (€ 7,233). © Bonhams 2001-2016.
The stocky beast moulded in mid stride, its bovine head lowered, modelled with three flame-like spikes issuing from the neck and flattened bosses along the spine, its long tapered tail curved upward.
Provenance: Rolf, Lord Cunliffe (1899-1963), Honorary Keeper of the Far Eastern Collections at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge
Acquired from William H. Wolff by Bluett & Sons Ltd., London, 3 June 1957
Acquired from Bluett & Sons Ltd., London, 4 June 1957
The Cunliffe Collection, no.PH12, and thence by descent
Note: This fierce-looking animal was interred in Han dynasty tombs and probably deemed to ward off the evil spirits from the afterlife of the tomb occupant. This animal may be one of the fantastic animals described in the Book of Later Han, 後漢書, compiled in the fifth century, as creatures providing contacts with the spirit world, heralding in good fortune, keeping evil at bay, or appearing when auspicious events where about to occur.
A similar creature included in the Schloss Collection, is illustrated in Ancient Chinese Sculpture - Han through Tang, 1977, vol. 1, pl. 18. another example in the Metropolitan Museum of Art is illustrated by S.Valenstein, A Handbook of Chinese Ceramics, New York, 1989, p.57, no. 50.