PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED NEW YORK PRIVATE COLLECTION
Of all ritual bronze shapes, fangyi is one of the rarest due to its relatively short production period. Vessels of this type first appeared in the early to mid-Anyang period. The earliest fangyi excavated from archaeological sites associated with the Yinxu period already show the formal and decorative features. Cast in the form of a casket of rectangular section, the characteristic features shared by these early fangyi are the straight vertical sides and the distinctive foot with a wide arched opening. For examples, see Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. 1, Washington, D.C., 1987, pp 432-433, figs 77.1-77.9. Already by the time of the burial of Lady Hao, consort to the King Wu Ding at around 1200 BC at Xiaodun, Anyang, fangyi appear to have been well established in the Shang bronze casting repertory, demonstrated by the number of fangyi discovered in her tomb. Following the fall of the Shang dynasty and its extravagant drinking culture, fangyi also declined in use and eventually disappeared after the Western Zhou dynasty.
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