Illustration principale
gilded belt buckles
Western Han Dynasty, Inner Mongolia/Northern China,
300-100 BC

Gilded bronze
Length : 10,6 cm and 10,3 cm

Provenance : Private collection, München
As a comparision, recently exhibited at St. Petersburg’s Hermitage (Treasures From the Shanghai Museum/No.89), see the Ordos Region gold plaque, decorated with an eagle-headed beast with antlers. This is said to also be a known motif from the Altai Culture of Russian Siberia.
See also the Robert Hatfield Ellsworth Collection (Lots 85-88/Sotheby’s NewYork/19.3.2002) for other plaques, all in gilt-bronze and dated between the 4th and 2nd Centuries BC.
Similar plaques, again depicting a variety of mythological and other animals, are thought to have originated in South Russia. Their designs presumably migrated eastwards in conjunction with the nomadic, horse cultures who employed bronze, gilded bronze, silver and gold in the creation of this entirely original genre. In the apparent absence of an established literature here, the chronology and evolution of these forms is somewhat uncertain. Dame Jessica Rawson in Ancient China/Art and Archaeology (1980) underlines the connection between a belt buckle from the Ordos Region (400- 300 BC) and similar plaques from the culture of Eastern Siberia, the latter collected by Peter the Great and now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg. At the time of writing, however, Dame Jessica concluded that there was both a dearth of excavated evidence, and little attempt to establish an accurate chronology.
Indeed, appraisal of the dissemination and influence of this metalwork has remained a challenging prospect. Professor William Watson, writing in 1995 ( The Arts of China to AD 900), inclines towards the view that the term “Ordos” includes similar objects from Inner Mongolia, and that the animist designs represent a specific culture, encompassing a large geographic region which included both Eastern Mongolia and Southern Siberia. Professor Watson also makes the significant point that the extant examples are largely “undocumented finds”. He concludes, however, that the artistic links between plaques produced by the Nomadic Khans of the Xiongnu (circa 200 BC), and those from he earlier nomadic peoples of Southern Siberia, form a straight line of unbroken tradition.