A RARE BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, ZUN LATE SHANG/EARLY WESTERN ZHOU DYNASTY, 12TH-10TH CENTURY BC Estimate $200,000 – $300,000
Price Realized $1,426,500
The trumpet-shaped neck of the vessel is cast in relief with four dragon-filled blades above a band of birds with backward-turned heads. The mid-section is cast with two large taotie masks above four smaller taotie masks on the spreading lower section. All are divided by plain flanges and separated by bow-string borders. There is a bold inscription cast in the base of the interior. The bronze has a dark silvery-grey patina mottled with areas of blue-green encrustation as well as some azurite and ferrous encrustation.
The inscription cast on the base of the interior consists of a graph within a yaxing followed by seven characters possibly reading lu zuo Fu Xin yi zun (made this vessel for Father Xin.)
The inscription on the wood box is by Hozuma Katori (1874-1954), a prominant Japanese bronze artist of the early 20th century. The inscription is dated to 1943, and provides a complete description of the vessel, and a translation of the inscription.
In terms of shape and design, this imposing vessel is very similar to one of early Western Zhou date from Zhuangbai village, Fufeng, Shaanxi province, illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji – 5 – Xi Zhou (1), Beijing, 1997. Like the present zun, the Zhuangbai zun features a similar arrangement of bands of taotie masks and birds reserved on a plain ground. The flanges on the Zhuangbai zun, however, are hooked, rather than plain, such those on the present vessel. A late Shang zun of similar proportions and with similar bands of decoration, but reserved on a ground of leiwen, is in the Shanghai Museum and illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji – 4 – Shang (4), Beijing, 1998, pp. 120-1, nos. 122-4. Also illustrated, p. 124, no. 127, is another zun of Shang date in the Shanghai Museum, which is cast with bands of taotie masks reserved on a plain ground around the midsection and base, but lacks decoration around neck and flanges that accentuate the form of the present zun and the Zhuangbai example.
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