NEW YORK - I cannot remember if an object like the Jijintu Scroll has ever been offered at public auction. This is such a rare piece. It is a handscroll of rubbings taken from twenty-one actual bronzes that were once in the collection of the celebrated 19th century collector Wu Dacheng (1835-1902).
The Wu Dacheng Jijintu Scroll. Qing Dynasty, Late 19th Century.
Wu Dacheng was a senior official of the Qing Court and his collection of Chinese bronzes, paintings and calligraphy ranked as one of the best in 19th century China. He made five scrolls of rubbings taken from his bronze collection. Before the introduction of western photography, the rubbing technique was one of the best ways to record an object. The beautiful full-dimensional rubbings are works of art in their own right. Today, the locations of only three of these editions are known. Two are in the Shanghai Museum, and this present scroll is the third.
The Ji Zu Yi Zun, a Superb and Important Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel. Late Shang Dynasty, 13th-11th Century BC.
The bronze vessel Ji Zu Yi Zun was also once in the collection of Wu Dacheng, and was given to Zhang Zhidong (1937-1909) whose son married Wu’s daughter, as a gift. Most pieces from Wu’s collection were dispersed after his death. The Jijintu Scroll and the Ji Zu Yi Zun left China in the early 20th century, and their whereabouts became a mystery. Amazingly, in a trip to Japan in October 2013, we were able to find both of them, which had been well kept in private Japanese collections. The reunion of the vessel with its rubbing in our New York auction rooms for the Archaic Bronzes and the Wu Dacheng Jijintu Scroll sale is a truly serendipitous event in the history of collecting.