Mirror with birds, animals, and grapes

Historical period(s)
Early Tang dynasty, late 7th-8th century
Diam x D: 21.3 x 1.9 cm (8 3/8 x 3/4 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Mirror


bird, casting, China, frog, grape, horse, lion, Tang dynasty (618 - 907), WWII-era provenance

From at least 1924
C. T. Loo & Company, Paris, from at least 1924 [1]

From at least 1929
Mrs. Christian R. Holmes (1871-1941), New York and "The Chimneys," Sands Point, Port Washington, Long Island, from at least 1929 [2]

From at least 1944
Tonying and Company, New York, from at least February 1944 [3]

From 1944
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Tonying and Company on February 7, 1944 [4]


[1] See Zhu Deyi, P. Pelliot, Bronzes antiques de la Chine appartenant à C. T. Loo et Cie. (Paris and Brussels: Librairie Nationale d’art et d’histoire, G. van Oest, 1924), pl. 36. According to Paul Pelliot’s preface to the catalogue, the bronzes forming the C. T. Loo collection and selected for the publication had been recently brought from China.

[2] See Yamanaka & Company, To-So Seikwa: Select relics of the Tang and Sung Dynasties from the Collections in Europe and America (Osaka, 1929), vol. 2, pl. 37 A.

[3] See Tonying & Company’s invoice, dated February 7, 1944, in which the mirror figures under no. B. 34: “Bronze Mirror, circular in form, ‘Grape and Sea-Horse’ design, fine patina / Tang” copy in object file. The acquisition was approved by C. G. Abbot, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, on February 4, 1944, see “List of Objects Contemplated for Purchase by the Freer Gallery of Art,” copy in object file.

[4] See invoice cited in note 2. See also A. G. Wenley’s letter to C. F. Yau, Tonying & Co., dated February 5, 1944, in which Wenley confirms the purchase of the mirror along with seven other mirrors from the Holmes collection (see records for F1944.3-F1944.4, F1944.6 -F1944.10).

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Mrs. Christian R. Holmes 1871-1941
Tonying and Company established 1902
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


The design of lions and grapevines in the main decorative zone of this mirror shows the influence of styles and exotic imports which came to China from the west by the silk route.  The heavy proportions, high relief, and silvery color are typical features of T'ang mirrors.

Published References
  • Sadajiro Yamanaka. To-so seikwa [Selected Relics of T'ang and Sung Dynasties from Collections in Europe and America]. Osaka, 1928-1929. pl. 27A.
  • Webster Prentiss True. The Smithsonian, America's Treasure House. New York. pl. 62.
  • Richard Ettinghausen. Studies in Muslim Iconography I: The Unicorn. vol. 1, no. 3 Washington. pl. 48.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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