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Gilt-Bronze Tiger-Head Finial


Height: 7.0 cm. (2 3/4 in.)
Width: 10.1 cm. (4 in.)
Length: 11.5 cm. (4 1/2 in.)

Western Han dynasty
2nd-1st century BC

Published: Kaikodo Journal XXIII (Spring 2007), no. 56.

This unusual finial is cast in the form of a stylized tiger head. Generously gilded overall, the basically rectangular fitting is hollow so as to allow slipping over the end of a wooden shaft or support. The large, heavily lidded eyes project like orbs from the boldly sculpted head, divided by a long cylindrical nose in front of the petal-shaped ears flattened back on the feline head. The whiskered jowls are pulled back to reveal a teeth-clenched grin.

Stylistically, the finial is a perfect expression of Western Han period sculpture, distinguished by its boldness, clear-cut powerful forms, and a perfect marriage of the natural and the abstract. Its function and dating are supported by archaeological finds.



For a complete writeup with illustrated comparative material download the PDF.

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