Bronze mirror with gold repoussé plaque, China, Tang dynasty, 618 – 906. Width: 10.1 cm. © Ben Janssens Oriental Art 2023
A bronze mirror of nearly square shape, the corners indented. The back is inset with a gold plaque, which is worked in repoussé technique. The main decoration of the plaque consists of a pair of duck and a pair of long-tailed birds arranged around a central pierced boss in the form of a crouching lion. The birds alternate with flowering plants. The background of the design is formed by a very fine ring-punched design. The rim and the plain surface of the mirror’s front are partly covered in thick malachite encrustation.
Provenance: The collection of Dr Frank Gabrin, East Orange, New Jersey, USA.
Bronze mirrors inset with thin gold or silver plaques were introduced in the Tang dynasty, without doubt the most important period in the development of Chinese gold and silver manufacture. During the Tang dynasty foreign influences, particularly those from the West, became widely accepted and reflected in the arts. This is evident in the decoration of the gold plaque on this exquisite small bronze mirror, which has more Western traits rather than Chinese. A very similar, foliate bronze mirror with inlaid gold plaque decorated with birds and dated to the second half of the 7th century to the first half of the 8th century, is in the collection of Dr. Pierre Uldry. Compare also a lobed bronze and gold mirror, dated to the Tang dynasty, in the Mengdiexuan collection.
1 Uldy, P. Chinesiches Gold und Silber, Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry, Museum Rietberg, Zürich, 1994, cat no. 190, p. 190.
2 White, J.M. and Bunker, E.C. Adornment for Eternity, Status and Rank in Chinese Ornament, Denver Art Museum, 1994, no. 55F, pp. 140 + 141