A bronze 'TLV' mirror, Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 8)

Lot 1139. A bronze 'TLV' mirror, Western Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 8); 8 1/8 in. (20.6 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 8,000 - USD 10,000. Price Realised USD 21,250. © Christie's Image Ltd 2013

The back is crisply cast with a knob centering a quartrefoil within a square border of twelve nipples separating characters representing the zodiac. There are eight further nipples in the outer field which is cast in thread relief with T, L and V motifs as well as the The Four Spirit Animals, Daoist immortals and various animals and birds. All are arranged in four quadrants, and are encircled by an inscription mentioning the Wang family, narrow decorative borders and a band of cloud scroll on the rim. The bronze has a silvery grey patina and some areas of malachite encrustation. 

Provenance: Raymond A. Bidwell (1876-1954) Collection.
The Springfield Museums, Springfield, Massachusetts, accessioned in 1962.

LiteratureLoan Exhibition of Chinese Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, 1929, no. 55.
S. Umehara, Shina Kodo Seikwa, Kyoto, pt. 2, I, 1933, pl. 61.
Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1935-36, no. 498.
A. Priest, Chinese Bronzes, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1938, no. 234,
H. Trubner, Arts of the Han Dynasty, Chinese Arts Society of America, Asia House, New York, February - March 1961, pp. 40-41, no. 70.
R. Spelman, The Arts of China, C.W. Post Center, Greenvale, New York, 1976, p. 42, no. 47. 

ExhibitedDetroit Institute of Arts, Loan Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1929, no. 55.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1930.
Royal Academy of Arts, London, International Exhibition of Chinese Art, 1935-36, no. 498.
C.W. Post Center, Long Island University, Greenvale, New York, The Arts of China, 4 February - 27 March 1977, no. 47.

NoteThe decoration on this TLV mirror and others like it is now believed to be derived from the layout of Qin and Han dynasty liubo game boards. A similar mirror (18.5 cm. diam.) is illustrated in Ancient Bronze Mirrors in the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai, 2005, pp. 158-9, no. 42, where the knob can be seen to rise from a similar quatrefoil and also includes a lengthy inscription, which is seven characters less than that on the present mirror. 

Christie'sFine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 21 - 22 March 2013, New York, Rockefeller Plaza