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BRONZE MIRROR

TANG DYNASTY (618-907)

15.6 cm diameter

The mirror is of eight-lobed form, the back side cast with a raised rim and a pierced knop in the centre. The back is further cast with a fierce dragon writhing amidst four ruyi-shaped clouds, its head turned back to grasp the sacred jewel which is the central knop. On both the decorated side and the specular side there are areas of brownish red encrustation as well as small malachite specks. 

The shape of the present mirror emerged in the mid eighth century. The dragon was considered as a mythical creature symbolising the Son of Heaven, and, in the Tang dynasty, was generally depicted with two horns, three claws and a long tail. As with other designs, the domed knop of the mirror is part of the design, resembling the sacred jewel grasped by the dragon's jaws. The knop is pierced through so it could be suspended by silk or cord.

 

Tang mirrors with dragon designs are relatively rare. Two related mirrors are published by Uragami Sokyo-do, Bronze Mirrors from Sui to Tang Dynasty, Tokyo, 2010, cat. nos. 65 and 66. A larger example from the Donald H. Graham Jr. Collection is illustrated in Toru Nakano, Bronze Mirrors from Ancient China, Hong Kong, 1994, cat. no. 89. A further example is in the Museum of East Asian Art, Cologne, museum no. Cb 87,1.

Provenance:

Formerly with J.J. Lally & Co., New York, no. 652

Formerly in an American private collection