Acquired in July 1994.
Jessica Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M.
Sackler Collections, vol. IIA, Cambridge/MA, 1990, p. 111, notes that in the later middle Western Zhou dynasty, overall aesthetic effects
became more important than individual motifs. The decline of the
compartmented decorative schemes invented by the Shang was crucial to
the achievements of late Western Zhou design. Along with this went a
new emphasis on relief effects, which can be seen in the decoration of the registers on the illustrated lot. The use of thick and smooth flat bands is also found on gui of the same period; compare for example the hu gui from the Shanghai Museum, Shanghai bowuguan cang
qingtong qi, Shanghai, 1964, pl. 56. More nonrepresentational
patterns, such as vertical ribbing, horizontal grooves, and raised
strapwork, seem to have satisfied the new taste for surface texture.
The appearance of handles in the shape of mythical animals was a
crucial element of the Early Zhou style. The use of zoomorphic handles declined in the middle Western Zhou, but reappeared on some late
Western Zhou bronzes, probably as a revival of the earlier fashion.
As illustrated on this hu, new ritual vessel shapes and decorative schemes ignoring vertical divisions were two of the major innovations
of the late Western Zhou period. A third was the use of interlace,
which appears on the intertwined bodies of birds and dragons cast on
the belly. The same characteristics are found on the song hu in the National Palace Museum, Catalogue of the Special Exhibition of Shang and Chou Dynasty Bronze Wine Vessels, Taipei, 1989, pl. 53; as James C.Y. Watt, Possessing the Past: Treasures from the National Palace
Museum, Taipei, New York, 1996, mentions, "the most prominent
stylistic innovation in the Western Chou is the use of sweeping bands
seen ... on the sung hu as a wave pattern on the upper register of the decoration...". The present lot displays a similar, but slightly
more angular and inverted version of this decoration. Compare also
another similar pair illustrated by Gisèle Croës, XVIIe Biennale des Antiquaires, Paris, November 10 - 24, 1994, p. 34; and another
hu sold in our New York rooms, March 22, 1999, lot 192. Compare also the examples from the Palace Museum, Taipei, illustrated by Fong and Watt in Possessing the Past, New York, 1996, p. 79, col. pl. 42; in Zhongguo Meishu Quanji: Diaosu Bian (The Great Treasury of Chinese Fine Arts: Sculpture), Beijing, 1998, vol. 1, p. 94, and in Gems of China's Cultural Relics, Beijing, 1997, no. 66, unearthed in 1997 from Xinzheng City, Henan province.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C101x83 is consistent with the dating of this lot.