Lot 162. A rare gold and silver-inlaid bronze tapir-form vessel, Zun, Yuan-Ming dynasty, 13th-15th century; 8½ in. (21.5 cm.) long. Estimate USD 80,000 - USD 120,000. Price realised USD 114,000. © Christie's Images Ltd 2007
Finely cast in the form of a tapir standing foursquare with mouth open and pierced below a curled snout, the ears flared and inlaid with a pattern of triangles, with a collar encircling the neck and with scrolls decorating the sides and haunches, the long, faceted tail also inlaid, and the back of the hollow body fitted with a hinged circular cover cast and decorated as a bird with backward-turned head centering its curved wings, all in gold and silver inlay in contrast to the pale greenish-grey patina.
Provenance: Christie's, New York, 6 June 1985, lot 487.
Michael Goedhuis, London, 1989.
Literature: M. Goedhuis, Chinese and Japanese Bronzes, A.D. 1100-1900, London, 1989, no. 80.
Exhibited: On loan: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989 - 2006, no. L. 89.23.4.
Note: The shape and inlaid decoration of this charming vessel are based on ancient prototypes of Warring States period date, 5th-3rd century BC, such as the inlaid tapir-form zun dated to the mid-Warring States period (Fig. 1) excavated in 1965 at Lianxui, Jiangxu province. Archaistic vessels of this type are the result of a tremendous interest in ancient bronzes during the Northern Song period, brought about by a renewed interest in Confucianism and anything associated with the rituals of the Bronze Age.
Three gold and silver-inlaid bronze tapir-form vessels very similar in shape and decoration to the present zun are published. One in Through the Prism of the Past: Antiquarian Trends in Chinese Art of the 16th to 18th Century, Taipei, 2003, p.186, pl. III-55, dated Yuan; one in the Royal Ontario Museum, dated Yuan-Ming dynasty, illustrated in Homage to Heaven, Homage to Earth, Toronto, 1992, p. 102, no. 53; and another dated Song dynasty from the collection of E. B. Ellice-Clark illustrated in the Catalogue of a Collection of Objects of Chinese Art, Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1915, pl. XXXV. On all of these the scrolls on the sides of the body, the details of the cover, and the triangular inlays in the ears, all appear to be the same. See, also, the example of the same shape, but with different scroll decoration on the body, dated Song-Yuan dynasty, sold in these rooms, 21 March 2000, lot 162.
The result of Oxford thermoluminescence test no. 466j42 is consistent with the dating of this lot.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, New York, 22 March 2007