Lot 171
  • 171


1,200,000 - 1,800,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • Bronze, inlaid with gold and silver, with green pigment
modelled after the archaic bronze wine vessel zun in the form of a tapir, the beast with round protruding eyes, upturned snout, and swept back ears, the collar around its neck joined by the raised band highlighting the contour of the spine, terminating at a short tail slightly curved to the left, the muscles of the animal accentuated by swirling patterns, densely filled in with archaistic motifs decorated with silver inlays and gilt, the small hinged cover set with a winged single-horned mythical bird as a knop, further enhanced overall by random splashes of green composition to simulate malachite encrustation


A&J Speelman, London, September 1982.


Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss, Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Fung Ping Shan Museum, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, 1986, cat. no. 127.

Catalogue Note

This piece bears the influence of the Ming metalworker Hu Wenming and may be the product of his workshop, as can be seen in the application of a distinctive green composition to imitate the accumulation of malachite encrustation on the surface of the metal.

For a discussion on the origins of archaic tapir-shaped wine vessels, see ibid., p. 154, where fig. 1 shows an illustration of such a vessel from the collection of Emperor Huizong (r. 1100-1126) of the Song dynasty. A woodblock impression of a zun which would have served as inspiration for later vessels of this type, and is likely to have been known to late-Ming metalsmiths, is published in the 1528 edition of the Bogu tulu [Illustrated collection of antiques].

Compare a tapir-form bronze vessel, attributed to the Yuan dynasty, but with only the collar in relief, included in the exhibition Through the Prism of the Past: Antiquarian Trends in Chinese Art of the 16th to 18th Century, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 2003, p. 186, cat. no. III-55, where cat. no. III-59 is an inlaid, archaistic fenghuang with a vase on its back; and another related vessel inlaid with metal wire but without the rich relief decoration, published in Le Musée Chinois de lImpératrice Eugénie, Paris, 1994, p. 28, fig. 20. See also a silver-inlaid bronze vessel in the form of an archaistic mythical beast, attributed to the late Ming / early Qing period, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 30th May 2006, lot 1519, with the maker’s name Song Yi inscribed on the base.