Ariadne Galleries

Three Bovine Head Attachments
Period: Sixth to fourth century BC
Culture: North China
Material: Bronze
Dimensions: 3.5 x 2.7 cm
image 1
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These charming bovine attachments are depicted in relief with simple perforations for the eyes. They were probably produced by the indirect lost wax casting process. The artist has skilfully captured the character of the animal with minimal added details, each with their own individualities, and their simple forms create a striking aesthetic. Zoomorphic attachments such as these would have been produced in large numbers and used to decorate clothing – the glinting metal adornments and the sound of their clinking would have been an impressive combination, signifying the wealth and/or status of the individual. Animal imagery was the defining feature of the art of the Eurasian steppes, permeating the art of the varying cultures and tribal communities from west to east. The choice to depict bovines reflects the pastoral people’s close relationship with their herds, on which they were dependent for their way of life.


Related examples have also been excavated from the Ordos region of Inner Mongolia. A very similar trio of bovine head attachments are in the Sackler collection (Northern China, first millennium BC, acc. nos V-7195, V-3490, and V-3124), and two others are in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Western Inner Mongolia, fifth to third centuries BC, inv. nos M.76.97.692 and M.76.97.645


Further Literature


For the example from the Ordos region, Duan Shuan, ed., Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji 15: Beijing minzu (Beijing, 1995), pl. 138.

For the examples from the Sackler collection, 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. 266.

For related examples in the C.T. Loo Collection; the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities in Stockholm; and the Inner Mongolia Museum in Huhehot, A. Salmony, Sino-Siberian Art in the Collection of C.T. Loo (Paris, 1933), pl. 11:8; J.G. Andersson, ‘Hunting Magic in the Animal Style’, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Stockholm, 1932), pl. 14:1, 7, 9; T. Guangjin and G. Suxin, eds, E’erduosishi qingtongqi (Beijing, 1986), pl. 83:15-17. 


Poon Collection, Hong Kong, 1970s.

Published: T. Pang, Treasures of the Eurasian Steppes: Animal Art from 800 BC to 200 AD (New York, 1998), no. 128.