The four-character pictograph may be read as gong bo zuo yi, which may be translated, 'The duke's eldest son made [this] vessel'.
The addition of feet on bronzes appeared in the second half of the early Western Zhou period and continued throughout the middle Western Zhou. The legs either extend from the bottom of the handles or from the bottom of the ring foot. For a discussion of this stylistic feature see J. Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. IIB, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1990, pp. 468-9.
Only one other vessel of this very rare shape and design appears to have been published. See Yenching Journal of Chinese Studies: The Bronzes of Shang and Chou, vol. II, Beijing, 1941, pl. 163, no. 303. In the illustration the vessel is shown with a domed cover surmounted by a circular handle and encircled by a band of decoration similar to that on the vessel. Another vessel of this rare type, but of different design, with legs issuing from the bottom of the four loop handles, which had been formerly in the Qing Palace Collection, was sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 28 April 2003, lot 624.
The result of Oxford Authentication Ltd. thermoluminescence test no. C103z15 is consistent with the dating of this lot.