Lot 573, a "very
rare" gold headdress, 12 1/4 inches wide, 7th-8th Century
Carter B. Horsley
This September 12, 2019
auction of Masterpieces of Chinese Gold and Silver at Christie's New
York is highlighted by a stunning gold headdress from the 7th to 8th
Century, an impressive silver bowl, a gold finial and several fine
Lot 573 is a semi-circular
headdress is cast at each end in repoussé with a galloping
horse with small antlers and flowing mane above two circular loops
pendent from the lower edge and another in front of the mouth. Between
the two horses is a band of floral diaper pattern centered by a
large, repoussé rosette, and on the reverse are six small
horizontal tubes below the upper edge. The 7th
to 8th Century piece is 12 1/4 inches wide.
Before 1929, it was
in the Dr. Friedrich Perzynski Collection in Rissen/Holstein and then
Cassirer/Hugo Helbing in Berlin. Before 1953, it was in the
collection of Dr. Johan Carl Kempe of Sweden, It was sold at
Sotheby's in London May 14, 2008.
It was shown at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington in 1954-5 and
at the Asia Society in New York in 1971.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"The decorative motifs of this very rare gold headdress are
representative of the cultural exchanges that informed the art of the
nomadic peoples of the northern steppes during the Tang-dynasty period.
The influences came from not only Central Asia and South Asia, but also
the Tang empire and the nomads themselves, with their focus on horses
and the other animals with which they were familiar.
"The nomadic reliance on horses is reflected in the depiction of the
horses that decorate each end of the headdress. They are shown not only
in a gallop but almost as if flying, their speed implied by the
position of the legs, the wind-blown manes, the open mouths and their
intense expressions. There is also something mythical about their
representation, which includes the small flames on the sides and the
small antler-like horns. Winged horses with bifurcated horns are
included with other mythical winged animals depicted on the gold saddle
fittings illustrated by Jenny F. So, Radiant Legacy: Ancient
Chinese Gold from the Mengdiexuan Collection, vol. II, Hong Kong, 2013,
pp. 40-49, where the fittings are dated 7th-9th century. Like the
present headdress the fittings are gold sheet worked in repoussé.
"The diaper pattern that decorates the band between the horses and the
central rosette most likely shows the artistic influence of
Tang-dynasty China and imitates woven fabric with alternating
ring-punched and stippled grounds. It is also very possible that the
rosette was originally inlaid in the center, possibly with turquoise.
The loops at the ends were for the attachment of cords to secure the
headdress and the loops at the bottom edge and the small tubes on the
reverse for the attachment of various decorative elements."
The lot has an estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It sold for $250,000 including the buyer's
premium as do all results mentioned in this article.
Lot 551, a "very rare and
important" large parcel-gilt silver bowl, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), 9
5/8 inches in diameter
551 is a very rare and important
large parcel-gilt silver bowl from the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).
The large bowl, which is the
cover illustration of the catalogue, is finely worked
in repoussé with three rows of overlapping lotus petals, each
gilded and exquisitely chased with a pair of birds in flight confronted
on a ribbon tied in four loops against a background of leafy foliate
sprays amidst leafy foliage, all below a further row of
smaller repoussé petals that alternate with clusters of
stamen below slender lancelot leaf tips that point towards the everted
rim. The center of the interior is chased with a large medallion
depicting eight birds in flight against a background of leafy foliate
sprays as they encircle a ribbon tied in four loops with trailing
ends. It is 9 5/8 inches in diameter.
It was once in the collection of Dr. Johan Carl Kempe in Sweden.
The bowl has an estimate of
$2,000,000 to $3,000,000. It
sold for $3,495,000.
rare set of gold and jade garment hook plaques, Eastern Zhou Dynasty,
4th Century B.C., largest 1 inch long
510 is a very rare set of gold and jade garment hook plaques from the
Eastern Zhou Dynasty, 4th Century B.C. The largest is 1 inch long. Each gold plaque is
chased in high relief with a pair of dragons with interlaced bodies.
Each jade plaque is delicately carved with detached comma scrolls.
The set was once in the collection of Dr.
Johan Carl Kempe (1884-1967) in Sweden. The lot has an estimate of $20,000
to $30,000. It sold for $75,000.
511, a "superb and extremely rare turquoise-inlaid gold inlaid chape,
Northwest China, Late 6th-Early 5th Century B.C., 2 1/8 inches high
Lot 511 is a "superb and extremely rare
turquoise-inlaid gold inlaid
chape, Northwest China, Late 6th-Early 5th Century B.C., 2 1/8 inches
high." It is also from the collection of Dr. Johan Carl Kempe of
Sweden. It has an estimate of $300,000 to $500,000. It sold for $591,000.
Lot 512, a very
rare and important gold feline head finial, Spring and Autumn Period,
6th to Early 5th Century B.C., 1 1/4 inches high
Lot 512 is another lot from the Kempe
collection. He had acquired it from C. T. Loo. It has an
estimate of $60,000 to $80,000. It
sold for $175,000.
Lot 576, a "rare" gold
"kalavinka" hairpin ornament, Liao Dynasty (AD 907-1125), 2 inches wide
Lot 576 is a "rare" gold "kalavinka" hairpin
ornament from the Liao Dynasty (AD 907-1125). It is 2 inches wide. Another Kempe work, the front of the
ornament is shaped in repoussé as a bejeweled kalavinka,
its hands crossed in front of the chest as it floats amidst clouds. All
of the outlines are beaded and it is soldered to a plain gold back.
The catalogue provides the
"This rare gold ornament is in the
form of a kalavinka, a winged celestial being that is half woman-
half bird. This unusual being can be seen as the central decoration of
several gold and silver bowls dated to the Liao dynasty and illustrated
in Chinesisches Gold und Silber: Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry,
Zürich, 1994, pp. 215-16, pls. 244-247. Like the present figure,
the kalavinkas on the bowls have feathered wings and bodies
and the hair is worn in a topknot. Based on its size and construction,
it is likely that the present gold ornament is the head or terminal of
a gold hairpin. Such a terminal, in the shape of Xiwangmu seated on a
phoenix, can be seen on a gold hairpin dated to the Song dynasty
illustrated by Julia M. White and Emma C. Bunker, Adornment for Eternity: Status and Rank in
Chinese Ornament, Denver Art Museum, 1994."
The lot has an estimate of $8,000 to $12,000. It sold for $27,500.
Lot 548, a "rare pair of
parcel-gilt silver hairpins," Tang Dynasty, 11 inches long
548 is a "rare pair of parcel-gilt silver hairpins from the Tang
Dynasty." They are 11 inches long and were once in the collection
of Dr. Johan Carl Kempe of Sweden.
The catalogue provides the following commentary:
"The opulence of the Tang court is reflected not only in the use of
gold and silver for the manufacture of vessels, but also for the
decoration of everyday objects and personal adornment. For the ladies
of the court this included rich jewelry such as necklaces, earrings and
bracelets, as well as combs and hairpins that adorned their hair
styles, which became more elaborate as the dynasty progressed. Later in
the Tang period the ends of the hairpins were often made from thin
sheet silver with cut-out designs that made them light in weight and,
along with the addition of gilding, made the hairpins shimmer and
quiver as the woman moved.
"The present hairpins are very similar to one dated Tang dynasty, late
8th-9th century, in the collection of the Art Museum, Princeton
University, and illustrated by Clarence W. Kelley, Chinese Gold and Silver in American
Collections, The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, 1984,
p. 39, no. 5....All of these hairpins include a pair of confronted
mandarin ducks, an appropriate motif for a lady of the court as
mandarin ducks symbolize connubial bliss and fidelity."
'Two further openwork, gilded silver hairpins in the Royal Ontario
Museum, also illustrated pl. 127, have similarly feminine motifs - one
of knotted cords representing the unbreakable union of marriage, the
other of a phoenix, the symbol of the empress who embodied all feminine
The lot has an estimate of $40,000 to
$60,000. It sold for $60,000.
Lot 527, a pair of
parcel-gilt hairpins, Tang Dynasty, 13 1/8 inches long
Lot 527 is a pair of parcel-gilt
hairings from the Tang Dynasty. The hairpins are 13 1/8 inches
long. The openwork head of
each hammered silver, double-pronged hairpin has a fine openwork design
of a lion facing a small bird perched on top of a large feathered plume
surrounded by scrolling tendrils.The lot has an estimate of $4,000 to
$6,000. It sold for $5,625.
563, a pair of gold filigree hairpins, 10th to 13th Century or later, 7
1/2 inches long
563 is a lovely a pair of gold filigree hairpins, 10th to 13th Century
or later, 7 1/2 inches longThe ornate head of each double-pronged hairpin is
comprised of a very fine sheet of delicate latticework decorated with a
small bird with a leafy spray in its beak below a scrolling meander,
all outlined in fine twisted wire and enclosed within a geometric
border. The lot has an estimate of $30,000 to $50,000. It sold for $32,500.
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