Lot 10
  • 10

Exceptionnel grand masque de taotie en bronze Fin de la Dynastie Shang - Début de la Dynastie des Zhou Occidentaux, XIE/XE siècle avant J.-C

150,000 - 250,000 EUR
783,000 EUR
bidding is closed


  • Bronze, plexiglass
  • Haut. 26,1 cm; 10 1/4  in.
composé de trois parties, les deux plaques latérales ajourées sculptées en bas-relief chacune d'une corne, un oeil, une oreille et une mandibule soulignés de rainures curvilignes, la plaque nasale est parcourue d'une arête en léger relief jusqu'à un losange central puis un enroulement figurant les narines, deux trous de fixation dans chacun des quatre angles, le bronze doté d'une riche patine verte, D.W 36/52: 1, 2, 3 (3)

Catalogue Note

The present bronze mask is made in three separate parts that would have been attached to a leather surface as indicated by the small perforations on the sides and corners, covering the front and sides of the horse's head. It is unusual and quite possibly unique as no other comparable piece is recorded.

The mask is cast in the form of a large mythical beast head known as a taotie, a term given in later texts. While it displays some naturalistic human features such as eyes, a nose with flaring nostrils, ears and a mouth, the most striking features comprise a pair of large curved horns and a set of prominent pointed fangs. The mask is of unusually large size which explains why it was made in three parts. 

This bronze taotie mask fitting takes its form and detail from taotie motifs cast on Shang and early Western Zhou ritual vessels. As Jessica Rawson has noted, the features of the taotie motif seem to vary depending on the size, shape and proportions of the bronze vessel, compare Jessica Rawson, Mysteries of Ancient China. New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties, London, 1996, pp. 15-16. Most often, the individual features of the taotie are disconnected and can easily be moved around although they are always centered on the often prominent nose. 

Stylistically, this impressive bronze taotie mask with its angular features is comparabale to taotie motifs depicted on vessels of rectangular or square form, such as the taotie motif found on an archaic bronze fang ding formerly in the van Heusden Collection, illustrated in Willem van Heusden, Ancient Chinese Bronzes of the Shang and Chou Dynasties. An illustrated Catalogue of the van Heusden Collection with a historical Introduction, Tokyo, 1952, pls. XVIII and XIX.  

Few bronze masks of animal or taotie shape are known. Several animal masks with taotie features of flat shape and cast in a single piece have been found in Sanxingdui, Guanghan County, Sichuan, dated to around 1200-1000 BC, compare Rawson, ibid., pp. 69-70, no. 25. A more closely related mask also from the David-Weill Collection, was exhibited in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art in London in 1935, illustrated in Catalogue of the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, London, 1935-1936, cat. no. 146.