Breast Plate. Vietnam. Dong Son Culture (5th - 1st century BCE). © Galerie Christophe Hioco

bronze, 6 3/8 inches. Price: $3,600.00

This square plate shows a remarkable symmetrical and stylised pattern of the typical Dong Son’s boats. On each of these boats, feathered men, probably warriors can be found. This type of plate may have been used as a chest protection for warriors, or to indicate the social rank of the holder. 

This plate was cast with the lose-wax technique and has been found with other ones in some graves from the neighbourhood of Dong Son village, in Thanh Hoa province. The fact that they were discovered near weapons allows us to think that they were male attributes for war. The holes on each corner should have been used to pin the plate on a war cloth, which was whether a prestige symbol or a prophylactic item. 

Identified in 1924, the Dông Son culture was named after a site on the banks of the Red River where its first traces were discovered at least 600 years BCE. Highly sophisticated bronze casting skills were developed, mostly for the creation of drums, recipients, arms and ornaments. People of the Dông Son culture placed great importance in rites and ceremonies, and most burial objects had both a practical function and a ritualistic symbolism. Clear proof of cultural and economic exchanges, Dông Son art not only influenced the Chinese provinces on which it bordered, but also a wide geographic zone that included Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia up to the eastern Sunda Islands. 

This Dông Son culture progressively morphed into Vietnamese art with Chinese tendencies, called Giao-Chi (or Han-Viet) as of the 1st century A.D. 

A similar model is illustrated and described in BARBIER-MUELLER, 2003, p.72. Another breastplate is presented in our catalogue *Bronzes du Vietnam, la symbolique de l'émotion*, which is from the Lan Huong Pham collection. 

Provenance: French private collection

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