Lot 187. An archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (zun), Shang dynasty, Yinxu period (1300-1046 BCE). Height 8 1/2 in., 21.6 cm. Estimate: 180,000 — 200,000 USD. Unsold. © Sotheby's
cast with a tall spreading foot supporting a globular body surmounted by a trumpet neck, the sides of the belly cast with three dissolved taotie masks, their horns, jaws, and other features abstractly rendered in low-relief hooked curls and the hemispherical eyes emerging in high relief, a procession of kuilong marching in the band above, the angled shoulder with a band of three simplified taotie masks aligned with their counterparts below, the center of each superimposed with a bovine mask in high relief, the foot and lower neck each cast with two parallel string-relief bands, the dark olive-gray patina mottled with various tones of green and brownish-red oxidation.
Provenance: Collection of Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987).
Literature: Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Washington D.C., 1987, pl. 45.
Note: The origin of the zun form is discussed by Robert W. Bagley in Shang Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Washington D.C., 1987, p. 265, where he observes that zun seem to have evolved from the earlier lei. Zun was one of the more popular forms during the first half of the Anyang period, and produced in a variety of sizes and proportions of the three sections.
The development and flourishing of the bronze workshops in Anyang coincided with the establishment of the Shang capital to the modern-day village of Xiaotun, near Anyang, by King Wuding (r. circa 1250-1192 BC). With his conquest of the Jiangnan regions, bronze factories in the south were destroyed and the artisans were transferred to Anyang. Bronze vessels of Anyang are characterized by highly ornate designs that often incorporate zoomorphic features. Crafted using piece-mold casting, sharp, bold designs as seen on the present were achieved. For a thorough analysis on the development of bronze workmanship during this time, see Su Rongyu, ‘Bronze-Casting Technology in the Late Shang Dynasty’, Mirroring China’s Past. Emperors, Scholars, and their Bronzes, The Art Institute of Chicago, 2018, pp 32-37.
A zun of this type, in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, was included in the museum’s exhibition Shang Ritual Bronzes in the National Palace Museum Collection, 1998, cat. no. 53; one in the Hunan Provincial Museum, is illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji, vol. 4, Beijing, 1998, pls 117 and 118; and another, in the Brooklyn Museum, New York, is included in Robert W. Bagley, op. cit., p. 281, fig. 45.1. Further related zun include one sold twice in our London rooms, 13th November 2002, lot 34, and again 12th May 2010, lot 16; and two sold in these rooms, 11th September 2012, the first of similar size, lot 146, and the second of larger size and from Yamanaka Co. Ltd., and J.T. Tai, lot 159.
Ritual Wine Vessel (Zun), ca. 13th-12th century B.C.E. Bronze, 8 5/8 x 5 7/8 in. (21.9 x 14.9 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of David James in memory of his brother, William James, 54.10.3. Creative Commons-BY (Photo: Brooklyn Museum)
An archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (zun), Late Shang dynasty, 12th-11th century BC; 22.5cm., 8 7/8 in. Sold for 36,050 GBP at Sotheby's London, 12th May 2010, lot 16. © Sotheby's
An archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (zun), Late Shang dynasty, 13th-11th century BC. Height 8 3/4 in., 22.3 cm. Sold for 110,500 USD at Sotheby's New York, 11th September 2012, lot 146. © Sotheby's
From Yamanaka Co. Ltd., and J.T. Tai. A large archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (zun), Late Shang-Early Western Zhou dynasty, 11th century BC. Height 13 3/4 in., 35 cm. Sold for 434,500 USD at Sotheby's New York, 11th September 2012, lot 159. © Sotheby's