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Lot n° 328

A GILT BRONZE ‘LONGMA’ HILT, XUANDE PERIOD

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A GILT BRONZE ‘LONGMA’ HILT, XUANDE PERIOD China, 1426-1435. Finely cast as a longma, a mythical creature with the head of a horse and body of a dragon, the wavy mane and scales finely chiseled and incised, with skillfully executed gilding to the copper alloy. Provenance: The collection of a French diplomat, acquired in China during the first half of the 20 th century, thence by descent in the same family. Condition: Fine condition with extensive wear to bronze and gilt, some nicks here and there. The iron blade is certainly very old, but still an addition. The original blade was probably made of jade. Good natural patina overall. Weight: 62.9 g Dimensions: Length 10.6 cm The longma is an auspicious creature that, according to legend, is said to represent gratitude. During the Xuande reign it was introduced as a principal decoration and became a popular subject ever since. While depictions of longma on porcelain from this period are quite common, along with later examples in jades from the Qing dynasty, gilt bronze longma are extremely rare. The finely combed-effect of the whorls of the mane and the almost deliberate dramatic quality of the present piece are characteristic of early Ming sculpture, particularly during the Xuande period, and recall the stone sculpture lining the spirit road of the Ming Tombs near Beijing, such as a qilin, depicted in a similar pose on a ceremonial archway, in situ at the Valley of the Ming Tombs, Beijing, illustrated in Ann Paludan, The Chinese Spirit Road, New Haven, 1991, pl. 220. Literature comparison: For a cobalt-blue and iron-red stemcup depicting heavenly animals, including the longma, with a Xuande mark and of the period, see Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 8 October 2013, lot 3029. For a celadon jade longma from the Qing dynasty, see Christie’s Hong Kong, 28 November 2006, lot 1419. Auction result comparison: Type: Related Auction: Sotheby’s New York, 20 March 2018, lot 111 Estimate: USD 150,000 or approx. EUR 169,000 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing Description: An extremely rare gilt-bronze ‘qilin’ water dropper, Xuande mark and period Expert remark: Compare the related closely related modeling and manner of casting with similar alloy, gilding, mane, and scales. Note the different form and subject, the reign mark, and the size (9.2 cm).