• The Sze Yuan Tang Archaic Bron auction at Christies

    Sale 2508

    The Sze Yuan Tang Archaic Bronzes from the Anthony Hardy Collection

    16 September 2010, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 822



    Price Realised  

    Estimate On Request

    The tapering body of rectangular section cast in low relief on each side with a taotie mask composed of detached elements cast with leiwen divided by a notched flange, repeated at the corners and in the center of a band of kui dragons below the rim, and addorsed kui dragons on either side of the small arched openings in the foot, all on leiwen grounds, each facet of the roof-shaped cover with an inverted taotie below the knop finial, both the base of the interior and interior of the cover cast with an eight-character inscription within a ya-shaped outline, with heavy malachite encrustation on the interior of the vessel and malachite encrustation on the exterior and interior of the cover
    11¼ in. (28.5 cm.) high, box

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    The inscriptions cast inside the vessel and cover, each of which consists of eight characters written inside a yaxing, may be interpreted, "Ya Ruo", "Ya Shi", "Ya Shou" and "Ya Xuan", which, according to Li Xueqin, The Glorious Traditions of Chinese Bronzes, p. 72, are clan names of the Yin-Shang period, while "Gui" and the other names are the ancestors to whom sacrifices were offered. The same inscription can be found on a few other bronzes including a very similar fangyi, possibly the pair to the present vessel, formerly in the Avery Brundage Collection, and a yu in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, both published by Chen Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu, 1977, A641, R137 and A143, R453, respectively.

    Fangyi appear to have been one of the most prized of ritual vessels, as they have been found in fewer and more sumptuous tombs then jue and gu. In Ancient Chinese and Ordos Bronzes, p. 92, J. Rawson and E. Bunker, in their discussion of this vessel, note that during the Shang dynasty rare vessels of this type were used in pairs, as seen in the tomb of Fu Hao, Yinxu Fu Hao mu, Beijing, 1980, pls. XVIII (2) and XIX (1 and 2). They are thought to have been used to store wine, and the heavy malachite encrustation in the base of the interior of the present vessel is most likely the remains of some kind of wine made from grain. A distinctive feature of this vessel is the use of leiwen or intaglio decoration on the motifs, which can also be seen on a very similar fangyi included in the Exhibition of Chinese Arts, C.T. Loo & Co., New York, 1 November 1941 - 30 April 1942, no. 32. This feature can also be seen on a related fangyi, illustrated by B. Karlgren, "Bronzes in the Wessén Collection", BMFEA 30, 1958, pls. 1-3.

    A fangyi with very similar bands of decoration, but lacking the leiwen ground design and the intaglio decoration on the raised motifs, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing. See, The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 27 - Bronze Ritual Vessels and Musical Instruments, Hong Kong, 2006, p. 142, no. 91. (Fig. 1)


    Burchard Collection, London.
    Ernst Gross-Spühler Collection.
    Sotheby's, London, 10 December 1985, lot 8.
    Eskenazi Ltd., London, 10 December 1985.


    Wu Dacheng, Kezhai ji gu lu, 1918, vol. 1, no. 4.
    Karlgren, "New Studies on Chinese Bronzes", BMFEA 9, 1937, pl. XXVII, no. 1268; and pp. 17, 68, and 81.
    Barnard and Cheung, Rubbings and Hand Copies of Bronze Inscriptions in Chinese, Japanese, European, American and Australasian Collections, 1978, vol. 8, fig. 1026.
    Sun Zhichu, Jinwen zhulu jian mu, 1981, no. 4525.
    Hayashi, In Shu jidai seidoki soran ichi, 1984, vol. 1, pl. 252, no. 29.
    Wang Tao and Liu Yu, A Selection of Early Chinese Bronzes, 2007, p. 324.
    Yin Zhou Jin wen ji cheng, 2007, vol. 6, nos. 9886 and 9887.


    On loan: Museum Rietberg, Zurich.
    Bronzen aus dem alten China, Museum Rietberg, 1975, cat. no. 24.
    Ancient Chinese and Ordos Bronzes, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 1990, no. 16.
    The Glorious Traditions of Chinese Bronzes, Singapore, 2000, no. 18.
    Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 2002-2006, p. 109.