Lot 227. A superb and rare silvered-metal 'Mandarin ducks' bowl, Tang dynasty (618-907). Diameter 4 1/8  in., 10.3 cmEstimate USD 50,000 — 70,000. Courtesy Sotheby's.

the shallow rounded sides rising from a flat base to a flared rim, the exterior meticulously decorated with a finely chased and engraved design of four pairs of mandarin ducks, divided by leafy lotus sprays issuing from a ring of connected ruyi heads, enclosing a formalized quatrilobed flower head centering the base, all against a very fine circle-punched ground.

Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).

Note: This exquisitely fashioned bowl is among the finest examples of metalwork made by Chinese artisans during the Tang dynasty. Bowls of this particular form and design appear to be very rare. Compare a related gilt-silver bowl of the same shape and size, but decorated with a pair of parrots and mandarin ducks, excavated in Hejia village, Henan province, currently in the Shaanxi History Museum, exhibited in Selected Treasures from Hejiacun Tang Hoard, Shaanxi History Museum, Shaanxi, 2003, cat. no. 69. 

A related silver bowl of a larger size, decorated with various animals from the Carl Kempe Collection, was included in the exhibition Chinese Gold, Silver and Porcelain. The Kempe Collection, Asia House Gallery, New York, 1971, cat. no. 45, and later sold in our London rooms, 14th May 2008, lot 44. See also a gilt-silver bowl of a related shape with a flat base and a flared rim, but decorated around the side with lotus petals and to the interior with a pair of lions, exhibited in Cultural Relics Unearthed during the Period of the Great Cultural Revolution, vol. 1, Beijing, 1973, p. 55; and another slightly larger silver bowl, decorated with mythical beasts and birds, sold in these rooms, 4th December 1984, lot 69.

Sotheby's. Junkunc: Arts of Ancient China II, New York, 10 September 2019