Western Zhou Period Set of Gold Horse Trappings - AM.0457 - For Sale
Western Zhou Period Set of Gold Horse Trappings - AM.0457
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This magnificent set of 51 hammered gold sheets most probably originated in the State of Qin (modern-day Gansu province) during the period of the Western Zhou. Stylistically they are comparable to a set of gold plaques discovered in the tomb of a Qin nobleman (possibly Qin Marquis Zhong (845-822 BC) or Qin Duke of Zhuang (822-778 BC) in the district of Li, Gansu. This set has been dated to the Western Zhou period by scientific analysis of the wooden rivets to which some of the gold adhered. The majority of the plaques are rectangular in shape with small triangular projections on one side. The circular holes would have served as fastening points. The sheets are variously adorned with a ‘lip’ design and C-shaped clouds. After hammering, the sheets would have been worked with a wooden burin and the holes cut with a knife. These plaques would have been used as ceremonial horse trappings by the upper echelons of Qin society. The longest elements would have ornamented the sides of the face and the other panels the saddle.The Qin dynasty are today best known for the achievements of Qin Shihuangdi, China’s first emperor and patron of the terracotta warriors (r. 221-220 BC). These ornaments however belong to a much earlier phase in their history, when the State of Qin was subordinate to the Zhou king. Indeed it was responsible for breeding and rearing horses for the Zhou. Gold objects from this period are extremely rare but this set testifies to the high levels of craftsmanship amongst the Qin, centuries before they became an imperial power. The source of the gold has also fascinated historians of this period, as there were no natural reserves in Qin territory, Instead it seems that gold was acquired further west, in the region of the Altai mountains. As evidence of exchange and contact with Central Asia, this pre-empts the later development of the so- called ‘Silk Road.’ The historical and artistic significance of these plaques cannot be over- emphasized and they would form the centre- piece of any serious collection of ancient gold.