J.J. Lally & Co., Oriental Art / New York City, New York

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A GOLD FILIGREE COURT HEADDRESS ORNAMENT
4.
A GOLD FILIGREE COURT HEADDRESS ORNAMENT

Late Eastern Han/Jin Dynasties, circa 3rd-5th Century

decorated with a highly stylized openwork design of a cicada outlined in fine gold strapwork and embellished with granular relief, the head of the insect finely detailed with dense granulation and with two turquoise bosses inlaid for the eyes, flanked by elaborately scrolled ‘feelers’, the striped body and wings shown in outline, the design enclosed within an openwork gold border following the shield-shaped outline of the plaque, filled with undulating scrollwork in a repeating pattern incorporating thirteen turquoise bosses symmetrically arranged, with dense granulation throughout and a band of granulation at the outer edge, attached to a thin bronze backplate by triangular tabs of gold extending out from the border and folded over, the bronze backplate with lightly encrusted green patination.

Height 2 18 inches (5.4 cm)

This type of headdress ornament was an important element of high court regalia from the end of the Eastern Han into the Six Dynasties period. In the famous ‘Thirteen Emperors scroll’ attributed to Yan Liben (active 7th century), now in The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, several emperors including Emperor Wendi (r. 220-226) of the Wei State and Emperor Wudi (r. 265-290) of the Western Jin Dynasty and Emperor Wen of the Sui Dynasty (r. 581-604) are shown wearing gold cicada ornaments on their court headdresses.

Gold headdress ornaments of this form and similar design are recorded in private and museum collections. An openwork gold ornament of very similar size and design excavated in 1998 from the Eastern Jin (317-420) Gao Song family cemetery at Xianheguan, Nanjing, and now in the Nanjing Museum is illustrated in Nanjing wenwu jinhua: qiwu bian (Cream of Cultural Relics in Nanjing: Objects), Shanghai, 2000, p. 221 and on the cover.

Two gold and bronze cicada ornaments of very similar design in the Sackler collection were exhibited at the China Institute in America and illustrated in the catalogue entitled Selections of Chinese Art from Private Collections in the Metropolitan Area, New York, 1966, pp. 30-31, no. 43.

Compare also the example in the catalogue of the Uldry collection illustrated by Brinker and Louis, Chinesisches Gold und Silber, Zurich, 1994, p.139, no. 116. Another ornament of this type in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts is illustrated by Juliano in Art of the Six Dynasties, New York, 1975, p. 32, no. 10, and another from the Metropolitan Museum of Art is illustrated by Singer in the China Institute catalogue Early Chinese Gold & Silver, New York, 1971, p.30, no. 27.

4.
A GOLD FILIGREE COURT HEADDRESS ORNAMENT

Late Eastern Han/Jin Dynasties, circa 3rd-5th Century

Height 2 18 inches (5.4 cm)

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