Lot 13. An archaic bronze ritual tripod wine vessel, zun, Western Zhou dynasty; 26.2cm., 10 1/4 inEstimate 10,000 — 15,000 GBP. Lot Sold 28,750 GBP© Sotheby's

the central bulb cast in low relief with two large taotie masks each with ram horns, bulging eyes and curling jaws revealing a pair of teeth reserved on a leiwen ground, the wide flaring trumpet neck and tall spreading foot each decorated with raised lines, the interior with a seven character inscription, the metal patinated to a reddish brown tone with extensive areas of malachite encrustation.

Provenance: Collection of Chester Dale and Dolly Carter.
Sotheby's New York, 1st June 1972, lot 1.
Sotheby's New York, 2nd November 1979, lot 230.

Literature: Eleanor von Erdberg, Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Chester Dale and Dolly Carter, Ascona, 1978, pl. 63.

Note: The seven-character inscription includes a pictograph of a clan name, showing a human holding a large knife, and the characters that can be translated as ' made for Father Ding this honoured vessel'.

In its form, with its elegant swinging curves and contractions, and the style of the relief decoration, the present vessel is typical of fine Western Zhou dynasty bronzes of this type. According to Erdberg, ibid., p. 108, this zun was fashioned before the leiwen motif coarsened or disappeared and was probably made within the span of the first two generations of the Zhou dynasty.

For examples of zun with similar taotie decoration see several illustrated in Jessica Rawson, Western Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. IIB, Cambridge, Mass., 1990, pl. nos. 79-82 and figs. 79.1-3, 81.1 and 82.1. Compare also a vessel sold in these rooms, 4th November 1969, lot 17; one, also attributed to the Western Zhou period, sold in our New York rooms, 23rd September 1997, lot 116; and a third example of slightly smaller dimensions and with a more compressed body, sold in these rooms, 7th December 1993, lot 6.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art, London, 12 May 2010