Outstanding for its well-preserved crisp decoration, this liding is a fine example of the final stage of bronze development in Anyang, which is characterized by the high-relief motifs against dense ground patterns and attractive rounded forms. The most refined examples, such as the present piece, feature intaglio designs on the taotie masks over a ground interspersed with leiwen spirals. Vessels of this form are a combination of the classic semi-spherical ding and the lobed li and were made from the later Erligang period through the Shang and Western Zhou dynasty.
A liding with a very similar taotie mask, from the collection of J. Eguchi, is illustrated in Sueji Umehara, Nihon shūcho Shina kodō seikwa/ Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Japan, vol. III, Osaka, 1961, pl. CLXXXIII; one, also decorated on the legs, in the British Museum, London, is illustrated in William Watson, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, London, 1986, pl. 14a; another from the collection of David David-Weill, illustrated in Alexander C. Soper, A Case of Meaningful Magic, Washington D.C., 1990, pl. 7, was sold in our Paris rooms, 16th December 2015, lot 21; a fourth was published in Bernhard Karlgren, “New Studies on Chinese Bronzes”, The Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm, 1937, pl. X, no. 248; and a slightly smaller example was sold at Christie’s New York, 23rd March 1995, lot 326. Compare also a liding with a large mask, but with parallel lines on the horns instead of spirals, in the Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Köln, illustrated in Christian Deydier, Les Bronzes Archaïques Chinois/ Archaic Chinese Bronzes, Paris, 1995, vol. 1, p. 257, pl. 3.
The two pictograms on this piece, which appears to depict a bird near a stream, are also found on a liding of similar proportions, from the collection of Sir Herbert Ingram now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, illustrated on the Museum’s website, accession n. EA1956.3516.