Lot 116. Two gilt-bronze 'dragon' supports, Eastern Han or later; h. 4.6 cm. Lot sold: 403,200 HKD (Estimate: 80,000 - 120,000 HKD). © Sotheby's 2022
each dragon depicted half-kneeling with the tail wrapped up in front, its head turned to the left, modelled with a single horn and large circular eyes below long bushy brows, the body detailed with groups of small circles and striations, its right arm held upwards and the upper half of its back cut away, suggesting its function as a support for a vessel.
Provenance: Eskenazi Ltd, London, 6th February 1989.
Literature: Jessica Rawson and Emma C. Bunker, Ancient Chinese and Ordos Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1990, cat. no. 118.
Exhibited: Ancient Chinese and Ordos Bronzes, Oriental Ceramic Society of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1990.
British Museum, London, on loan, 1992-2015.
Note: Animal-form supports of this type were made as legs for vessels such as lian, zun or pan; for example, a Han dynasty gilt-bronze lian with crouching bear feet in the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, accession no. S1987.341a-b.
An identical example, also naturalistically modelled as a kneeling dragon, is included in the exhibition catalogue Oriental Works of Art. Shogado 70 years, Kyoto, 1989, p. 38 bottom. For other gilt-bronze animal-form supports, see a 'bear' example in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard Art Museums, accession no. 1943.53.92; and two sets of four bird-shaped vessel legs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession nos 49.137.1-8, presumably made to support lacquerware which perished with time.
Sotheby's. HOTUNG The Personal Collection of the late Sir Joseph Hotung: Part 1, Hong Kong, 9 October 2022