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A RARE PAIR OF PARCEL-GILT SILVER HAIRPINS
A RARE PAIR OF PARCEL-GILT SILVER HAIRPINS
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A RARE PAIR OF PARCEL-GILT SILVER HAIRPINS

TANG DYNASTY (AD 618-907)

Details
A RARE PAIR OF PARCEL-GILT SILVER HAIRPINS
TANG DYNASTY (AD 618-907)
The gilded head of each double-pronged silver hairpin has a delicate, chased openwork design depicting a pair of mandarin ducks in flight amidst scrolling tendrils that also enclose a lotus leaf and flowers, all issuing from the jaws of a dragon head.
Each 11 in. (28 cm.) long; weight 17 and 17.6 g; leather box
Provenance
Dr. Johan Carl Kempe (1884-1967) Collection, Sweden, before 1953, no. CK126.
Sotheby's London, Masterpieces of Chinese Precious Metalwork. Early Gold and Silver, 14 May 2008, lot 52.
Literature
Bo Gyllensvärd, Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, Stockholm, 1953, cat. no. 126.
Bo Gyllensvärd, 'T'ang Gold and Silver', Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, No. 29, Stockholm, 1957, pl. 24d, fig. 84b.
Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, The Museum of Art and Far Eastern Antiquities in Ulricehamn, Ulricehamn, 1999, pl. 136.
Exhibited
Washington, D.C., Smithsonian Institution, Chinese Gold and Silver in the Carl Kempe Collection, 1954-55, cat. no. 126.
New York, Asia House Gallery, Chinese Gold, Silver and Porcelain. The Kempe Collection, 1971, cat. no. 63, an exhibition touring the United States and shown also at nine other museums.

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Olivia Hamilton (高麗娜)
Olivia Hamilton (高麗娜) Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

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Lot Essay

The opulence of the Tang court is reflected not only in the use of gold and silver for the manufacture of vessels, but also for the decoration of everyday objects and personal adornment. For the ladies of the court this included rich jewelry such as necklaces, earrings and bracelets, as well as combs and hairpins that adorned their hair styles, which became more elaborate as the dynasty progressed. Later in the Tang period the ends of the hairpins were often made from thin sheet silver with cut-out designs that made them light in weight and, along with the addition of gilding, made the hairpins shimmer and quiver as the woman moved.

The present hairpins are very similar to one dated Tang dynasty, late 8th-9th century, in the collection of the Art Museum, Princeton University, and illustrated by Clarence W. Kelley, Chinese Gold and Silver in American Collections, The Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio, 1984, p. 39, no. 5. (Fig. 1) Other similar hairpins include one originally in the collection of the Hon. Senator Hugh Scott and now in the collection of Pierre Uldry, illustrated in Chinesishes Gold und Silber, Zurich, 1994, p. 205, no. 219, and the example illustrated by Han Wei and Christian Deydier, Ancient Chinese Gold, Paris, 2001, p. 134, pl. 331. A related gilt-silver hairpin in the Royal Ontario Museum is illustrated in Homage to Heaven, Homage to Earth, Toronto, 1992, p. 223, pl. 127 (bottom). All of these hairpins include a pair of confronted mandarin ducks, an appropriate motif for a lady of the court as mandarin ducks symbolize connubial bliss and fidelity. Two further openwork, gilded silver hairpins in the Royal Ontario Museum, also illustrated pl. 127, have similarly feminine motifs - one of knotted cords representing the unbreakable union of marriage, the other of a phoenix, the symbol of the empress who embodied all feminine attributes.

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