Lot 257
  • 257


30,000 - 50,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Length 5 in., 12.8 cm
solidly cast in the form of the bird standing with its wings folded and its tail trailing out, its face detailed with bulging eyes and a pointed beak beneath a crest, its slender legs terminating in large talons, the wings and tail incised with feather markings, with a raised circular aperture on the back, wood stand (2)


Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).

Catalogue Note

The present vessel modeled in the form of a peacock is extremely rare, and no other examples of the same type appear to be published. Its stocky form is consistent with the bronze birds of Han dynasty, such as a gilt-bronze phoenix of a slightly larger size, also from the collection of Stephen Junkunc, III, sold in these rooms, 19th March 2019, lot 122; and a bronze phoenix-form censer, excavated in Jiaozuo, Henan province, exhibited in Splendeurs des Han: Essor de l'empire céleste, Museé Guimet, Paris, 2014, cat. no. 126.

The small tube on the back of the present lot links it to a group of vessels of various forms sharing this same feature, the function of which is still debated. See a related bronze figure of a ram, modeled recumbent with a short tube on the back, catalogued as a water dropper, exhibited in Kandai no bijutsu [Arts of the Han dynasty], Municipal Museum of Fine Art, Osaka, 1975, cat. no. 2-68; an inlaid bronze mythical beast with a tube on the back, fitted with a cover, identified as a water dropper, attributed to the Han dynasty, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 25th November 1987, lot 449; and another bronze example, identified as a water container, sold at Parke-Bernet New York, 14th December 1967, lot 167.

A related bronze vessel, modeled in the form of a bixie, set to the back with a tube and a cover, as well as an additional tube behind the right foreleg, attributed to the Eastern Han to Six Dynasties, was exhibited in Animals and Animal Designs in Chinese Art, Eskenazi, New York, 1998, cat. no. 13, where it is suggested that it could possibly be both an incense burner and oil lamp, and later sold at Christie's New York, 22nd-23rd March 2018, lot 921; another bronze vessel of a slightly later period, cast in the form of a figure mounting a mythical beast, in which the figure's head is pierced with an aperture, fitted with a cover, attributed to the Three Kingdoms period, was excavated in Hefei, Anhui province, and is now in the Anhui Provincial Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua daquan qingtongjuan [Compendium of Chinese art. Bronzes], Taipei, 1993, no. 1233, where it is identified as a lamp.