During the Eastern Zhou period (770-256 BC) jade was used to cover the the faces of deceased members of the elite in China, a practice which continued into the Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 202), and then appears to have ceased. Archaeological evidence shows that burial masks were in use in areas west of China from the second to the eighth century, which may have been the inspiration for the use of funerary masks of different metals during the Liao dynasty (907-1125). Excavations of Liao tombs have revealed masks made of copper, bronze, gilded bronze, silver, and the discovery in 2003 of the Liao dynasty tomb of the Princess of Chen and her husband, Xiao Shaoju, provided archaeological evidence of burial masks being made from gold sheet. The status of the deceased appears to have dictated which metal was used. The shape, size and details of the individualized masks also varied.
Two gold funerary masks of a type similar to the present example are illustrated in Chinesisches Gold und Silber: Die Sammlung Pierre Uldry, Museum Reitberg, Zürich, 1994, pp. 212-3, nos. 239 and 241, as well as a similar 'net' of eight narrow straps radiating from a central circular medallion. Another was sold at Sotheby's, New York, 9 December 1987, lot 155; and two along with a 'net' were sold in our New York rooms, 1 June 1988, lot 34.
A Technical Examination Report is available upon request.