Important Chinese Art
Important Chinese Art
Important Archaic Bronzes from the MacLean Collection
September 22, 04:06 PM GMT
60,000 - 80,000 USD
A rare archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (Lei)
Late Shang dynasty
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 band enclosing six large 'whorl' medallions, interrupted by a pair of loop handles suspending loose rings, each handle issuing from a bovine mask detailed with protruding eyes, pricked ears, and large horns, the lower body set with a further loop handle, the interior neck cast with a three-character inscription reading xu zu geng
Height 16¾ in., 42.6 cm
Sotheby's London, 18th November 1998, lot 802.
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, 1973, pl. 7, fig. 1, together with four others, but without inscription, ibid., 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; 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; and the Zi Mei lei sold in these rooms, 20th March 2019, lot 660.
The present lei belongs to a small group of late Shang dynasty bronzes inscribed with the rare clan pictogram Xu. For other vessels from the group, see two bronze ding, each inscribed with a three-character inscription reading Fu Xin Xu, published in The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng [Compendium of Yin and Zhou bronze inscriptions], Beijing, 2007, nos 01635 and 01636; and two bronze ge each cast with the Xu pictogram, one from the British Museum, London, and the other formerly in the collection of Qu Mufu (1769-1844), published in Wu Zhenfeng, Shang Zhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng [Compendium of inscriptions and images of bronzes from Shang and Zhou dynasties], vol. 30, Shanghai, 2012, nos 16038 and 16039.