Bronze snarling beast

Length: 3 1/2 inches, 9 cm
Height: 3 1/4 inches, 8 cm

Bronze snarling beast

China, Ming to Qing dynasties, 17th-18th century

A bronze figure of a snarling lion, the animal seated on its hindquarters, its head with wide­ open jaws turned to the left. The trefoil tail is swept around the hindquarters. The spiny back is embellished with a row of buttons, with tufts of hair on either side. The beast has a wild mane, pointed ears, bulging eyes and shows its teeth. The bronze is covered in an attractive chocolate patina. The natural bonze colour of the material shows through in certain areas, predominantly on the flat base.

This wonderfully modelled animal was probably made originally as a weight for the scholar’s desk, to hold down an open scroll or papers for painting or calligraphy. Terese Bartholomew writes that in the Chinese language, shi, the word for lion, is homophonous with the words for ‘things’ and for ‘tutor’ and the word shi is a pun for two high ranks in ancient China. ‘

Provenance: The collection of Paul Bromberg, Bangkok and Hong Kong

  1. Tse Bartholomew, T. Hidden Meanings in Chinese Art, Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, 2006, 5.17 p. 11 6