The present zun
vessel belongs to a distinct category of late Shang and early Western Zhou dynasty bronzes characterized by the eccentric 'smiling mouth' formed below the taotie
. The most famous example of this type is a zun
in the Sackler collection, dated to the 11th century BC, and intricately cast with flanges and three registers of taotie
masks, the central one bearing a toothy grin, illustrated in Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections
, Washington D.C., 1987, pl. 49 and front cover. A small number of zun
from this category and of similar form to the present example are known, including one in the Idemitsu Museum, illustrated in Ancient Chinese Arts in the Idemitsu Collection
, Tokyo, 1989, pl. 46; another excavated in 1999 and now in the Institute of Archaeology Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, illustrated in Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng / Compendium of Inscriptions and Images of Bronzes from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties
, vol. 20, Shanghai, 2012, pl. 11213; and a third sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 7th July 2003, lot 612.
The box for this lot is inscribed with a note by Yuzo Sugimura, dated 1964.