A pair of bronze elephant-trunked-dragon shaped circular fittings

東周    象首夔紋碟型配飾一對

Each is cast as a flattened ring composed of a pair of elephant-headed dragons chasing each other’s tails. The head of each has a big round eye, a long two-lipped trunk curled back over the forehead, C-shaped ears, a pronounced lower lip and a long down-curved tusk. The curved body of each has short-scrolled recesses, originally inlaid with semi-precious stones. The surface of the bronze is of silvery colour with areas of malachite encrustation.

A pair of gold fittings, formerly with Gisèle Croës, of similar shape and size was sold at Poly Auction Hong Kong, Autumn 2017, lot 3301.

The term kui, denoting a one-legged dragon-like monster, was associated with the type of mythical creatures depicted here, which appear regularly on Shang and Zhou bronzes, only in the Song dynasty. Paired face to face, two kui form a taotie, a fierce mask-like motif whose interpretation is as obscure as it is fascinating. Here the kui, which have taken on a distinctly elephantine appearance, circle each other forming a ring, an early stage in the evolution of the coiled-animal designs employed in nomadic harness ornaments and the like in Inner Asian art over the next few centuries. The kui and the taotie are supremely fluid motifs, taking on the attributes of many different animals as the bronze decorator saw fit. Here, perhaps, the elephant has been chosen for the tusks, whose crossing in the middle of the ring may relate to the method of attachment of the fitting.

Dimensions: Length: 7.7 cm, 3 inches. Width: 5.8 cm, 2 ¼ inches

Date: Eastern Zhou dynasty (770-221 B.C.)

Stock No. 2036

Price: On Request