This is a finely cast bronze head of a lion or monster mask which would have been one of two attached to the sides of a bronze basin or other vessel. This type of monster mask was commonly found on ancient Chinese ritual bronze vessels and implements. The mask measures 2 ½” high by 2 ¼” wide by 7/8” thick and is in excellent condition with fine patina. There is a 3/8” protruding pin on the back of the mask for affixing it to the vessel. We date the mask to the Qing dynasty, circa 1850s – 1900.
Mask-shaped bronze handles were also used on lacquer receptacles and are sometimes the only intact parts of such vessels discovered in tombs if the lacquer had disintegrated. On occasion they have become separated from the bronze and are found detached by tomb excavators. They are known variably as Tao-Tai masks and Lion Mask and depicted mythological guardian lions.
Tao-Tai (Dragon Demon Face Mask) motif. Tao-Tae has its early origins in Hongshan Neolithic culture 6,000 years ago. It was a very popular motif during the HongShan period because it was believed to repel evil and bring good luck to those who wore it. It is also one of the oldest mystical motifs to have survived until modern times.
It would make a super paper or scroll weight for the scholars desk.