Large Brass Chinese Hand Warmer or Rolling Lamp
diameter: 16.5 cm
This handwarmer or lamp comprises two hemispherical interlocking thick brass parts with pierced and incised openwork with phoenix and peony motifs. Originally it would have had an internal gimbal mechanism which would have comprised a pair of concentric rings that moved on pivots to ensure that an attached small oil lamp would remain upright even as the sphere is turned in the hand.
Such spherical lamps or handwarmers were far more common in India and the Middle East. Examples from China though are far less common. The use of gimbals did however originate in China more than 2,000 years ago.
The Victoria & Albert Museum has on display two small spherical censors with chased silver casing and bronze gimbals (inventory no.: M.98,99-1938) which are attributed to the Tang Dynasty (675-750).
Inventory no.: 12