Lot 114. An exceptional hardstone and glass-inlaid gilt-bronze belt hook, Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD). Length 4 1/4 in., 10.7 cm. Estimate 20,000 — 30,000 USD. Unsold. Courtesy Sotheby's.
cast in the form of a powerful mythical animal mask resembling a tiger, detailed with feline features, its almond-shaped eyes inlaid with glass, its forehead inset with a circular hardstone, a tapering hook rising from the top of its head terminating in a double-horned chilong head, the concave underside with a circular button.
Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc III (d. 1978).
Exhibited: Exhibition of Belt Buckles, Chinese Art Society, New York, 1951.
Note: Although belt hooks of this type are known, the present example is remarkable for its well preserved condition. Compare a closely related belt hook, but lacking inlays, in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, gifted by Mr. and Mrs. Eugene V. Thaw, acc. no. 2002.201.169, and another in the collection of Wellington Wang, also without inlays, illustrated in Wellington Wang, Belt Ornaments Through the Ages, Taipei, 1996, pl. 99.
See also other related gilt-bronze belt hooks with inlaid decoration, such as one in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., included in the exhibition Traders and Raiders on China's Northern Frontier, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington, D.C., 1995, cat. no. 75; another sold at Christie's New York, 19th September 2006, lot 156; a third exhibited in Chinesische Gold und Silber. Die Sammling Pierre Uldry, Rietberg Museum, Zurich, 1994, cat. no. 50; and a fourth, inset with a cicada to the center, from the collection of Dr. Paul Singer, exhibited in, Relics of Ancient China from the Collection of Dr. Paul Singer, Asia House Gallery, New York, 1965, cat. no. 124