Lot 348. A bronze ritual wine vessel, gu, Shang dynasty, 13th-12th century BC; 10 13/16 in. (27.5 cm.) high. Estimate USD 25,000 - USD 30,000. Price Realized USD 52,500. © Christie's Image Ltd 2008
The trumpet-shaped neck flat cast with a band of upright blades rising from a narrow band of spirals, above two taotie masks with small boss eyes centered on narrow flanges on the rounded center section, the spreading foot cast with a narrow band of S-shaped serpents above a wide band of four dragons with boss eyes and upturned snouts shown facing in the same direction in profile on a leiwen ground, cast with a pictograph on the interior of the foot, with pale milky-green patina, encrustation on the interior.
Provenance: The Estate of Jack and Adele Frost prior to 1986.
Acquired in Los Angeles, c. 1990.
Note: The single pictograph cast inside the interior of the foot of this gu, usually deciphered as zheng (upright), consists of a rounded square and a pair of footprints. A similar graph appears in a jia illustrated by R.W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1987, pp. 158-9, no. 5, who mentions that, although the character is usually taken to be the name of a person, clan or place, the excavation of a yu from a burial near Fu Hao's tomb suggests that it was the name of a marquisate. Bagley cites thirteen other published bronzes in public and private collections which bear this pictograph.
A very similar gu is illustrated by Bagley, ibid., pp. 228-9, no. 29. Another similar example excavated from Xibeigang M1550 at Anyang is illustrated by Li Ji and Wan Jiabao, Yinxu chutu qingtong gu xing qi zhi yanjiu(Studies of the Bronze Gu-Beaker), Taiwan, 1964, pl. 34 and p. 87, fig. 29.