A fine gilt-bronze stemcup, Tang dynasty (618-907)

Lot 414. A fine gilt-bronze stemcup, Tang dynasty (618-907); 5 cm., 2 in. Estimate 6,000 — 8,000 GBP. Lot Sold 9,375 GBP. Photo courtesy Sotheby's 2008

the deep U-shaped bowl rising from a knopped spreading foot to an everted rim, finely chased around the exterior with equestrian figures reserved on a ring-matted ground, all below a rib and a chased undulating floral band.

NoteEngraved stemcups of this form are conceived after Sassanian gold and silver prototypes. Bo Gyllensvard in 'Tang Gold and Silver', Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, no. 29, Stockholm, 1957, pp. 64-5, notes that the form was also copied in India and is depicted in one of the Ajanta cave paintings. Margaret Medley in Metalwork and Chinese Ceramics, London, 1972, p. 5, mentions the Chinese adapted the Persian stemcup first as a novelty and then as a vessel appropriate to religious purposes in the seventh century. She illustrates ibid., pl. 5, an engraved Tang silver cup together with a Sassanian prototype

A closely related example was sold at Christie's London, 14th July 1980, lot 298; another, but with a band of stylised clouds on the rim, in the Avery Brundage collection, is illustrated in Jan Fontein, Unearthing China's Past, Boston, 1973, pl. 93; and a third example was sold in these rooms, 12th December 1978, lot 240. Compare also a silver-gilt stemcup of this form decorated with a hunter on one side and a camel on the other, in the Musee Guimet, Paris, illustrated in Han Wei, Ancient Chinese Gold, Paris, 2001, pl. 378. 


Coupe sur pied à décor de cavalier-archer, Dynastie Tang (618-907), argent, 7,5 x 6,2 cm, egs Michel Calmann 1978, MA4797. Paris, musée Guimet - musée national des Arts asiatiques. Photo © RMN-Grand Palais (MNAAG, Paris) / Thierry Ollivier

The motif of horsemen chasing their game with drawn arrows is a motif characteristic of the sophistication and prosperity of the height of the Tang dynasty.


Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art. 05 Nov 08. London