Lot 1107. A rare set of three small bronze bells, nao, late Shang dynasty, 13th-11th century BC; 6 ¼ in. (15.6 cm.) high (largest). Estimate USD 150,000 - USD 250,000. Price realised USD 162,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2018
The bells of graduated size are of lenticular section and cast on each side in relief with ataotie mask below a square panel, and the hollow, tapering shank is cast with a single clan sign, plexi stand.
(inscription on the largest nao)
Provenance: Dr. Bruno Canto Collection, Milan, Italy, before 1954.
Literature: Mostra D’Arte Cinese (Exhibition of Chinese Art), Venice, 1954, no. 60.
Exhibited: Venice, Mostra D’Arte Cinese (Exhibition of Chinese Art), 1954.
Note: Nao first appeared in north China in the late Shang period and continued to be made into the early Zhou dynasty. They were usually made in graduated sets of three, and were probably held upright on stands so that they could be struck from the exterior. It is rare to find an original set of nao of graduated sizes and matching inscriptions. A set of three nao bells with similar taotie decoration in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, is illustrated in Shang Ritual Bronzes in the National Palace Museum Collection, Taipei, 1998, pp. 480-83, no. 82. A set of three bells with horned masks from the Western Sector of Yinxu is illustrated in Kaogu xuebao, 1979, no. 1, p. 74, fig. 71 and pl. 14 (1). A set of five bearing Ya Bi clan signs found in the Fu Hao tomb in Anyang is illustrated in Tomb of Lady Hao at Yinxu in Anyang, Beijing, 1980, pl. LXII (1), which is the only known set of five nao.
Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, New York, 13 - 14 September 2018