Lot 257. A rare bronze peacock-form vessel, Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). Length 5 in., 12.8 cm. Estimate 30,000 — 50,000 USD. Courtesy Sotheby's.
solidly cast in the form of the bird standing with its wings folded and its tail trailing out, its face detailed with bulging eyes and a pointed beak beneath a crest, its slender legs terminating in large talons, the wings and tail incised with feather markings, with a raised circular aperture on the back, wood stand (2).
Provenance: Collection of Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978).
Note: The present vessel modeled in the form of a peacock is extremely rare, and no other examples of the same type appear to be published. Its stocky form is consistent with the bronze birds of Han dynasty, such as a gilt-bronze phoenix of a slightly larger size, also from the collection of Stephen Junkunc, III, sold in these rooms, 19th March 2019, lot 122; and a bronze phoenix-form censer, excavated in Jiaozuo, Henan province, exhibited in Splendeurs des Han: Essor de l'empire céleste, Museé Guimet, Paris, 2014, cat. no. 126.
The small tube on the back of the present lot links it to a group of vessels of various forms sharing this same feature, the function of which is still debated. See a related bronze figure of a ram, modeled recumbent with a short tube on the back, catalogued as a water dropper, exhibited in Kandai no bijutsu [Arts of the Han dynasty], Municipal Museum of Fine Art, Osaka, 1975, cat. no. 2-68; an inlaid bronze mythical beast with a tube on the back, fitted with a cover, identified as a water dropper, attributed to the Han dynasty, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 25th November 1987, lot 449; and another bronze example, identified as a water container, sold at Parke-Bernet New York, 14th December 1967, lot 167.