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A FINELY CAST BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, GU
A FINELY CAST BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, GU
A FINELY CAST BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, GU
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A FINELY CAST BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, GU
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A FINELY CAST BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, GU

LATE SHANG DYNASTY, ANYANG, 12TH-11TH CENTURY BC

Details
A FINELY CAST BRONZE RITUAL WINE VESSEL, GU
LATE SHANG DYNASTY, ANYANG, 12TH-11TH CENTURY BC
The trumpet neck of the slender vessel is decorated with four elongated blades crisply cast in relief with a dissolved taotie mask on a leiwen ground that rise from a narrow band of four kui dragons with hooked beaks and upturned tails. The middle section and the spreading foot are each cast with two taotie masks divided and separated by notched flanges, the larger masks on the foot below a narrow band of four dragons with angular bodies, C-scroll ears and long snouts. The vessel has a rich, mottled patina of green and red color. Two graphs, ya X, are cast on the interior of the foot, and can be read as a clan sign.
12 in. (30.4 cm.) high
Provenance
J. J. Lally & Co. New York, 1988.
The collection of Daniel Shapiro, New York.
Literature
J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Works of Art, New York, 1988, no. 31.
D. Shapiro, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, A Personal Appreciation, London, 2013, pp. 48-51 and 129.
J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Bronzes: The Collection of Daniel Shapiro, New York, 2014, no. 3.
Exhibited
New York, J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Works of Art, 27 May - 18 June 1988, no. 31.
New York, J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Bronzes: The Collection of Daniel Shapiro, 14 March - 5 April 2014, no. 3.

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Lot Essay


Gu, ritual vessels used for wine, are one of the most recognizable of bronze forms of the Shang dynasty. First seen as a slender beaker during the Erlitou period, circa 2000 to 1500 BC, the shape eventually evolved into the elegant trumpet-mouthed vessel of the late Anyang period of 12th-11th century BC date.

The present gu is comparable in shape and decoration, both the motifs and arrangement of the design, to those found at the site of the Shang capital near Anyang in Henan province, and to others that can be found in both museum and private collections, the main difference being the unusual use of two narrow bands of two different types of kui dragons above and below the center section rather than the more usual band of serpents at the base of the neck and band of kui dragons at the top of the foot. The latter decoration can be seen on a gu illustrated by S. D. Owyoung, Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Saint Louis Art Museum, 1997, pp. 60-61, no. 9; and one in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, illustrated by J. Fontein and Tung Wu in Unearthing China's Past, Boston, 1973, pp. 38-39, no. 8. Two others have also been published: one is illustrated by B. Karlgren in "Bronzes in the Hellstrom Collection," BMFEA, No. 20, Stockholm, 1948, pl. 14 (1); the other by B. Karlgren and J. Wirgin in Chinese Bronzes: The Natanael Wessen Collection, The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Monograph Series, vol. 1, Stockholm, 1969, col. pl. 4, pls. 21-23, no. 15, which was later sold at Christie's New York, 22 March 2019, lot 1510.

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