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Gallery Text

The move of the Zhou capital eastward in the wake of nomadic invasions marked a diminution of Zhou authority and the rise in power of surrounding states. Although in the earlier Western Zhou period, bronze was employed primarily for ritual vessels, weapons, and tools, during the Eastern Zhou era, it began to be used to make mirrors, bells, and chariot fittings as well. Bronze mirrors were polished smooth on their reflective sides, and their backs were intricately decorated with auspicious symbols or cosmological designs. Their reflectivity was believed to create light in a darkened tomb and to ward off evil. Chariots were vital for military warfare, and those of the powerful were fitted with ornate finials and attachments, which during the Warring States period (475–221 BCE) were often inlaid with precious stones and metals. This technique was also employed with greater frequency in the casting of bronze vessels, revealing yet another shift in the function of such objects, from commemorative status symbols to more decorative vestiges of a ritual tradition.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
1943.52.174
Title
Circular Mirror with Decoration of "TLV" Pattern and Animals of the Four Quadrants
Classification
Mirrors
Work Type
mirror
Date
1st century BCE-1st century CE
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Period
Han dynasty, 206 BCE-220 CE
Culture
Chinese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/204358
Location
Level 1, Room 1600, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Bronze Age to the Golden Age
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Cast bronze of a silvery appearance with traces of cobalt-blue and green patina
Dimensions
Diam. 23.8 cm (9 3/8 in.)
Provenance
[Yamanaka & Co., New York, January 20, 1931] sold; to Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (1931-1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
Accession Year
1943
Object Number
1943.52.174
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), no. 058, pp. 62-63

Susan Costello, "An Investigation of Early Chinese Bronze Mirrors at the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2005), Unpublished, pp. 1-25 passim

Exhibition History

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 1600 Early China II, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu