A gilt-bronze paperweight

17th century

The weight is cast in the form of a recumbent mythical beast with long mane, its head turned back and its face rendered with ferocious expression revealing its teeth. The tail is curled alongside the beast’s haunches and the legs tucked beneath the body.

7 cm wide

 

Provenance:

Formerly in the collection of David Ketel

David Ketel (1913-2006) was stationed in Beijing as Negotiation Representative during the 1950s, and a diplomat during the 1960s. Besides collecting Chinese art, he also became a skilled artist in Chinese painting.

This solid cast sculpture is of a very fine type, with naturalistically detailed head, tail, legs and fur, and shares the main characteristics with a Buddhist lion.

Bronze paperweights, often in the form of a single animal, became very popular during the Ming dynasty for use on the scholar’s table, either to hold open a scroll painting or to hold down paper. Animals such as this example are among the repertoire of Chinese decorative animal sculptures of creatures, sometimes of uncertain identity. Some are purely mythical, drawn from legends and fabulous tales. Others are animals that the sculptor had only heard about or seen in paintings, so that his understanding of the basic, identifying characteristics was tenuous at best.


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