This delicate, hollow cast openwork finial takes the form of a boar standing on a sow. Though somewhat stylized in design, the animals’ features are rendered realistically; the boar has sizeable tusks and its mouth is agape, expressing its ferocious character. The furrows on its back are indicated by subtle ridges and the hooves are delineated. Both creatures feature prominently-defined ears and elliptical eyes. The boar is larger than the sow, as is to be expected, but the arrangement of the larger animal atop the smaller also makes for an interesting aesthetic effect. This object would have ornamented the top of a vertical object, perhaps a tent pole or standard. Casting marks reveal that it was made with a two-piece mould.
The composition is a variation on the theme of copulating animals, which appears principally in the art of the non-Chinese peoples of southeast Inner Mongolia and northeast China, particularly where hunting was a major part of the local economy. The animals depicted in these mating scenes all belong to wild rather than domesticated species, perhaps suggesting that an increase in the wild population was a major concern for hunters in those regions. The choice to adorn a functional object with such subject matter indicates the importance of nature and hunting to the lives of these communities, and also expresses a reverence for the might and power for the beasts with whom they shared their landscape. Scenes of this nature rarely occur on objects originating west of the Taihang Mountains (which run down the eastern edge of the Loess Plateau in Shanxi, Henan, and Hebei provinces).
A similar finial depicting a boar mounting a sow belongs to the Arthur M. Sackler Foundation (acc. no. V-3108), although the casting is rougher than ours. A bronze plaque discovered in a non-Chinese grave at Tiejianggou, southeastern Inner Mongolia, portrays two copulating wild boars.
E.C. Bunker, T.S. Kawami, K.M Linduff, and W. En, Ancient Bronzes of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (New York, 1997), pp. 166-167.
Private Collection, New York.
Formerly in the Calon da collection.
Published: Pang, Tina, Treasures of the Eurasian Steppes: Animal Art from 800 BC to 200 AD, New York, 1998, p. 134, no. 144.
Published: E.C. Bunker, T.S. Kawami, K.M Linduff, and W. En, Ancient Bronzes of the Eastern Eurasian Steppes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (New York, 1997), pl.73.2.