Chinese / Stem Cup / Tang period, c. late 7th-early 8th centuryChinese
Stem Cup
Tang period, c. late 7th-early 8th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Name-CRT: Chinese
Title: Stem Cup
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 667
Creation End Date: 733
Creation Date: Tang period, c. late 7th-early 8th century
Creation Place: North China
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Metalwork
Materials and Techniques: Silver with embossing, chasing, engraving, and microscopic traces of gilding
Dimensions: H. 1 7/8 in. (4.8 cm); D. 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.118
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The interest in metalwork and the use of gold and silver in Tang-period China (618-906) illustrate the impact of foreign ideas and art forms on the culture. Although gold and silver in the form of hammered fragments had been used as inlay on bronzes as early as the Shang and Zhou dynasties (c. 1700-221 BCE), during the subsequent Han and Northern and Southern dynasties these metals were only occasionally used for jewelry and other types of ornament. It was not until the Tang dynasty that a large number of functional objects made of or decorated with gold and silver were made.

The close contacts between China, Central Asia--particularly Sogdiana (centered in present-day Uzbekistan), which had longstanding mercantile ties with China--and Sassanian-period Iran played a critical role in the evolution of metalwork during the Tang period. This stem cup, which dates to the late 7th or early 8th century, typifies the use of Sassanian and Sogdian motifs and techniques. The cup was shaped by hammering, or "raising," a sheet of silver into the stem form, then additional hammering produced the design. The embossed lobes decorating the sides contain flowering vines and birds in a stylized landscape. The chasing of the ring matting--that is, the background of small circles on the exterior--is not found in Chinese art prior to the Tang period. Both raising and ring matting were techniques commonly used in Sassanian and Sogdian metalwork, suggesting a likely source for their introduction to China. The stem shape, too, has often been traced to the metalwork of Iran and Sogdiana. Unlike most of the shapes associated with Tang-dynasty metalwork, though, the stem cup was to remain in constant use in Chinese culture, and ceramic examples were often used in shrines and on family altars.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 56.
Related Document Description: Christie, Manson, and Woods. The Frederick M. Mayer Collection of Chinese Art (auction, London, June 25, 1962), pp. 276-77.
Related Document Description: Gyllensvärd, Bo. 'T'ang Gold and Silver.' Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities 29 (1957), pp. 86, 208, 227.
Related Document Description: Kelley, Clarence W. Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-907) Chinese Gold and Silver in American Collections. Dayton, Ohio: Dayton Art Institute, 1984, p. 58.
Related Document Description: Kelley, Clarence W. 'Tang Dynasty Gold and Silver.' Orientations (March 1985), p. 11.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.118
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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