A quatrefoil gold box with lobed and barbed sides. The slightly domed cover is worked in repoussé and decorated with a fanciful lion seated amidst flowers enclosed in a barbed, beaded border. An outer border of floral swags is enclosed within a border of leaves surrounded by a band of ring punched decoration between raised edges. The sides of the box are engraved with two continuous flowering bands on a ring punched ground. The underside and interior are left plain. The box is precisely designed so that the top and bottom fit snugly together.
Lions are not native to China and were not seen on Chinese artifacts until the Tang period when they were first used as symbols of power and authority. Soon a less ferocious and more playful lion motif was introduced like the one on this box which is surrounded by a delicate floral arrangement. A small box such as this would have been for personal use and may have been intended to be given as a gift.
The Tang period was one of reunification, peace and prosperity, and artistic growth following a time of great political unrest. In 674 the last Persian dynasty had been defeated by the Arabs and sought refuge within the Tang court. As a result, trade routes across Central Asia opened and Persian metallurgy styles and artistic techniques began to influence Chinese craftsmen. This, combined with the development of gold mines in China fostered the “Golden Age” of Chinese metalwork. The artistic beauty and unrivaled quality of work produced at this time reflects the affluence and sophistication of the Tang Court.
In our opinion, this box is an excellent example of the period in terms of form, material, decorative motifs, and workmanship.
Reference Number: 1302