Lot 2041A rare bronze openwork taotie mask fitting, Northern Wei dynasty, 5th century; 4 5/8 in. (11.8 cm.) wideEstimate USD 6,000 - USD 8,000. Price Realized USD 10,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2014. 

The fitting is cast as a taotie mask with curved fangs, a beak-form nose above a curved hook, bulging eyes and a pair of pricked ears which flank a central openwork area formed by a figure standing with arms akimbo on the back legs of two confronted dragons. There are four small holes for attachment.

Provenance: Exhibited Osaka, Japan, Osaka Municipal Museum, Chugoku bijutsu ten siri zu 2, Ricucho no Bijutsu, 1975.
Senshutey, Tokyo, Japan, December 2001.

ExhibitedOsaka, Japan, Osaka Municipal Museum of Art, Chugoku bijutsu ten siri zu 2Ricucho no Bijutsu (Art of the Six Dynasties), 1975, p. 18, no. 2-43.

NoteCompare the similar mask from Leizumiao, Guyuan, Ningxia Autonomous Region, and now in the Guyuan Museum, illustrated by James C.Y. Watt et al., in China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200-750 AD, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004, p. 164, no. 73, where it is dated Northern Wei dynasty, 5th century. The entry notes that the motif of a "human figure placed between the animals survives from an earlier period of Xianbei culture on the steppes." This mask also retains its pendent ring handle which duplicates the openwork decoration between the ears of the animal mask.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, New York, 20 - 21 March 2014