A bronze and gold harness fitting, Warring States Period (475-221 BC)

Lot 12. A bronze and gold harness fitting, Warring States Period (475-221 BC), 4.5cm., 1 3/4 in. Estimate 4,000 — 6,000 GBP. Lot sold 23,300 GBP. Photo: Sotheby's

composed of a thick bronze ring with three solidly cast gold animal heads attached, their raised heads framed by a furled mane and set with short twisting horns and pointed ears above bulging eyes, the curled nostrils flowing to an open mouth. Weight 127g.

ExhibitedChinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1954-55, cat. no. 3.

Chinese Gold, Silver and Porcelain. The Kempe Collection, Asia House Gallery, New York, 1971, cat. no. 2, an exhibition touring the United States and shown also at nine other museums.

Literature: Bo Gyllensvärd, Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, 1953, pl. 3.

Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, The Museum of Art and Far Eastern Antiquities in Ulricehamn, Ulricehamn, 1999, pl. 3

Note: Compare a very similar bronze and gold fitting, illustrated in Simon Kwan and Sun Ji, Chinese Gold Ornaments, Hong Kong, 2003, cat. no. 60. See also Celestial Creations: Art of the Chinese Goldsmith. The Cheng Xun Tang Collection, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 2007, cat. no. A29.

Fittings like the present example were probably applied to the reins of a harness and examples were discovered in sites associated mostly with the state of Qin in Shanxi and Shaanxi province. A similar ornament cast in bronze and gold was discovered at Fengxiang Doufu village in Shaanxi province, in a large pit filled with the remains of chariots and horses and dated to the Warring States period; another harness ornament by cast in silver and bronze and with the heads turned inwards was unearthed from the tomb of the King of Zhongshan at Pingshan in Hebei province, illustrated in Simon Kwan and Sun Ji, Chinese Gold Ornaments, Hong Kong, 2003, p. 198.

Sotheby's. Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork, Early Gold and Silver; Early Chinese White, Green and Black Wares, London, 14 May 2008

NDB: See also a pair of gold foil-decorated bronze harness fittings. Warring States period, 5th-4th century BC sold at Christie's New York, 26 March 2010, lot 1290.

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A rare pair of gold foil-decorated bronze harness fittings. Warring States period, 5th-4th century BC. Sold for USD 32,500 at Christie's New York, 26 March 2010, lot 1290. © Christie's Image Ltd 2010

(Cf. my post: Gold Works of Art Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections @ Christie's NY