Lot 660
  • 660

A RARE ARCHAIC BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL (LEI) LATE SHANG / EARLY WESTERN ZHOU DYNASTY |

Estimate
80,000 - 120,000 USD
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Description

  • Height 16 1/4  in., 41.3 cm
of baluster form, the wide ovoid body rising from a short, slightly splayed foot to a waisted neck encircled by two raised fillets, cast around the broad shoulder with a raised band enclosing six large 'whorl' medallions, interrupted by a pair of loop handles, each issuing from a bovine mask detailed with protruding eyes, pricked ears, and large notched horns, the lower body set with a further loop handle, each handle with a two-character inscription to the top reading zi mei, the surface with areas of malachite encrustation

Provenance

Collection in Osaka, circa 1934 (by repute).
Offered at Sotheby's London, 10th December 1985, lot 19.
Sotheby's New York, 19th September 2001, lot 3. 

Literature

Noel Barnard and Cheung Kwong-Yue, Rubbings and Hand Copies of Bronze Inscriptions in Chinese, Japanese, European, American, and Australasian Collections, vol. 8, Taipei, 1978, no. 1216 (inscription).
Liu Yu and Lu Yan, ed., Jinchu Yin Zhou jinwen jilu [Compilation of recently discovered archaic bronze inscriptions], Beijing, 2002, pl. 980.
Zhong Baisheng, Chen Zhaorong, and Huang Mingchong, etc., ed., Xinshou Yin Zhou qingtongqi mingwen ji qiying huibian [Compendium of inscriptions and images of recently included bronzes from Yin and Zhou dynasties], Taipei, 2006, no. 1933.
Wang Tao and Liu Yu, A Selection of Early Chinese Bronzes with Inscriptions from Sotheby's and Christie's Sales, Shanghai, 2007, pl. 331.
Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng [Compendium of inscriptions and images of bronzes from Shang and Zhou Dynasties], vol. 25, Shanghai, 2012, no. 13759.

Condition

The body of the vessel with numerous breaks and cracks throughout, which have been rejoined and consolidated and areas of losses have been filled, and several of these breaks extending to the shoulder. There is a possibility that the lower handle is replaced. Both interior and exterior have been repatinated. X-Ray available upon request.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.
NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

Catalogue Note

In addition to the present lot, a much smaller lei bearing the same two-character inscription, reportedly discovered from Anyang, Henan province, formerly in the collection of William Charles White, now in the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, is published in Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng [Compendium of Inscriptions and Images of Bronzes from Shang and Zhou Dynasties], vol. 25, Shanghai, 2012, no. 13758. Bronze lei of this type cast with inscriptions are rare. See a related lei, discovered from a late Shang dynasty hoard in Beidong village, Liaoning province, published in 'Liaoning Kazuoxian Beidongcun faxian Yindai qingtongqi' [Yin dynasty bronze discovered in Beidong village, Kazuo county, Liaoning province], Kaogu, no.4, Beijing, pl. 7, fig 1, together with four others, but without inscription, pl. 6, fig. 3 and pl. 7, figs 2, 3, and 4; one inscribed with two characters, in the Sumitomo Collection, published in Sen-Oku Hakuko Kan: Sumitomo Collection [Ancient Art from the Sumitomo collection], Kyoto, 2002, pl. 115; another in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua Daquan [Compendium of Chinese bronzes], Taipei, 1993, p. 35, no. 123; and a fourth inscribed with six characters, published in Li Xueqin, Zhongguo meishu quanji. Gongyi meishu bian 4 Qingtongqi shang [Complete collection of Chinese arts. Decorative arts no. 4. Archaic bronzes], vol. 1, Beijing, 1985, pl. 80. 

For other uninscribed examples, see one attributed to the late Shang to early Western Zhou period, in the Meiyintang Collection, published in Wang Tao, Chinese Bronzes from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 2009, pl. 52; another formerly in the Sakamoto Collection, illustrated in Sakamoto Collection. Chinese Ancient Ritual Bronzes, Nara, 2002, pl. 83; and two sold in these rooms, one attributed to the Western Zhou period, first sold 23rd March 2004, lot 582, then 18th September 2007, lot 181, and the second from the J.T. Tai Collection, sold 22nd March 2011, lot 46.

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