Place of Origin: China
Date: 18th - 19th Century
Overall Height: 178mm (7 inches)
Overall Width: 165mm (6 ½ inches)
This heavy pair of large Chinese stirrups exhibit unusual decorative features that make them unique from other examples (though antique Chinese stirrups are rare in any case).
Formed entirely from bronze, the present pair begin with a stepped top-section which in its design is reminiscent of Chinese temple architecture, each stirrup then including the typical rectangular apertures which would have originally held the stirrup leathers. The shoulders are cast to convey the faces of dragons that show sharp fangs and billowing manes. A sunken section extending from their mouths comprises the main surface of the stirrups’ posts or ‘arms’, and in deep relief conveys a mantra inscription in the Lanca script (a Tibetanised form of Sanskrit), possibly the well-known mantra: Om mani padme hum.
Intersecting the posts and treads are further faces of those same dragons seen at the shoulders, though here they are depicted as if seen from above. Domed discs of turquoise are then inset within a centrally sunken border over the edge of the treads; each of the four sides holds twenty-two of these discs (eleven are missing in total). The main interior surface has been incised with a large central medallion containing a large Chinese character set within a border of delicately engraved foliage.
Two stirrups of similar weight and size were exhibited by Runjeet Singh Ltd in Treasures from Asian Armouries - TEFAF Maastricht 2020 (see Cat. No. 17), also showing dragon-shoulders and the same essential structure that is typical of such pieces, as well as a mantric inscription. A bronze censer (Object Number 24:2005a,b), preserved in the Saint Louis Art Museum and made by a famous bronzesmith of the late Ming dynasty, similarly shows striking dragon faces.