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HAN DYNASTY (206 BC - AD 220)

2.6 cm diameter

Each of round form, gilded and crisply cast in relief as a seated bear with round ears and a long snout facing down. The feet and round belly are revealed below the animal's well-defined sharp claws. The reverse is recessed and set with two angular attachment loops which are covered with malachite encrustation. 

The present pair of gilt-bronze ornaments were probably meant for clothing. Their small size, crisp details and thin attachment loops make them very delicate and fragile - and seemingly very rare. Bronze bears of this type are more frequently found in the form of supports or feet for objects, vessels or small furniture, like four gilt-bronze table leggs in the National Museum of Korea, accession number 4799. Such bear-shaped supports are also common among Han-dynasty ceramics such as tripod jars, braziers and granaries as illustrated in Aileen Lau, Ed., Spirit of Han - Ceramics for the After-Life, Singapore, 1991, pls. 89-91, 98, 136, 180-182. Bear-form objects from the same period also include sculptural bronze fittings and solid-cast weights, as well as jade and hardstone figures.