A silvered bronze 'beast' inscribed mirror, Eastern Han dynasty, dated to the third year of Zhongping, corresponding to 186 AD

Lot 126. A silvered bronze 'beast' inscribed mirror, Eastern Han dynasty, dated to the third year of Zhongping, corresponding to 186 AD. Diameter 5 5/8  in., 14.3 cmEstimate 8,000 — 12,000 USDCourtesy Sotheby's.

cast with concentric circles centering a pierced domed knop, the innermost band with four prowling winged felines each shown in profile in high relief and divided by raised squares each enclosing four characters, the following band with twelve raised squares each enclosing one character and interspersed with twelve semicircles cast with whorl-patterns, all bordered by a band of darts, the rim with a 59-character inscription dated to Zhongping sannian (Zhongping third year), and including a dedication citing the King Father of the East and the Queen Mother of the West, all enclosed by a band of brocade pattern, the mirror face slightly convex.

ProvenanceSpink & Son, London, 4th September 1987.
Collection of Florence (1920-2018) and Herbert (1917-2016) Irving, no. 1890.

NoteHan dynasty mirrors with dated inscriptions are extremely rare, and ones dated to the Zhongping reign are rarer still. A second mirror, belonging to the Shanghai collector Li Guosong, also bears an inscription dated to the third year of the Zhongping reign and is described by Sueji Umehara in Kan sangoku Rikuchō kinenkyō zusetsu [An Illustrated Discourse on Dated Mirrors of the Han, Three Kingdoms, and Six Dynasties Periods], Kyoto, 1943, p. 30. A mirror formerly in the Moriya Collection, with a very similar design to the present example, and dated to the sixth year of the Zhongping reign is also published in ibid., pl. 15.1, and was later reproduced in Anneliese Bulling, 'The Decoration of Mirrors of the Han Period: A Chronology', Artibus AsiaeSupplementum XX, 1960, cover and pl. 65.

Sotheby'sChinese Art from the Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Florence and Herbert Irving Gift, New York, 10 Sep 2019