the slender middle section rising from a flaring foot to a trumpet neck, crisply cast around the central bulb with stylised taotie masks centred and divided by notched flanges, the neck with four upright triangular blades decorated with dissolved taotie masks in relief against a leiwen ground above a band of angular serpents, the foot similarly decorated with taotie masks and cicadas in relief against a leiwen ground, with two bowstrings and two crosses dividing the waist and foot, the bronze with an attractive olive patina with malachite encrustations, the base with an inscription reading Hu ju (Tiger chariot)
Purchased by a European Vice Consul in Shanghai in the early 1940s.
Outstanding for its remarkably preserved crisp decoration, which compliments the elegant silhouette of the sweeping neck, this gu
is characteristic of ritual bronze vessels of the final stage of the development in Anyang. This late style is characterised by the high-relief motifs against dense ground patterns. The most refined examples, such as the present piece, feature intaglio designs on the main taotie
masks and a ground interspersed with leiwen
-spirals. The two pictograms cast inside the foot may be translated as hu ju
(tiger chariot), and is likely to be a clan name.
A closely related gu, from the Sackler collection in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Washington D.C., is illustrated in Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, Washington D.C., 1987, pl. 38; another, unearthed in 2001 from Huayuanzhuang village, Anyang city, Henan province, is published in Yinxu xunchutu qingtongqi [Ritual bronzes recently excavated in Yinxu], Kunming, 2008, pl. 62; and a third, from the collections of H.E. Alexandre J. Argyropoulos and Julius Eberhardt, and included in the exhibition Mostra d’Arte Cinese, Palazzo Ducale, Venice, 1954, cat. no. 6, was sold in our New York rooms, 17th September 2013, lot 1.