Lot 1222. A bronze ritual wine vessel, gu, Shang dynasty, Anyang, 12th century BC; 10 1/8 in. (26 cm.) high. Estimate 50,000 - USD 70,000. Price realised USD 123,750© Christie's Images Ltd 2013

The tall, slender vessel is crisply cast in low relief on the trumpet-shaped neck with four blades filled with inverted masks above a narrow band of angular snakes, and on the center section and the spreading foot with taotie masks divided and separated by notched flanges. Those on the foot are set below two pairs of confronted dragons. The elements of the decoration are cast with leiwen and reserved on leiwen grounds. The bronze has a mottled milky green patina and some areas of malachite encrustation, two Japanese wood boxes.

ProvenanceRikunosuke Ogawa Collection, Kyoto, prior to 1935.

Note: Gu, which were ritual vessels used for wine, are one of the most recognizable of bronze forms of the Shang dynasty. The vessels date to as early as the Erlitou period, circa 2000 to 1500 BC, at which time they were a simple slender beaker, and eventually evolved into the elegant trumpet-mouthed vessel of the late Anyang period of 12th-11th century BC date, as exemplified by this finely cast example.

A comparable gu is illustrated by R.W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1987, p. 248, no. 36. See, also, the gu illustrated by W.T. Chase in Ancient Chinese Bronze Art, China House Gallery, New York, 1991, no. 9; and another by M. Loehr in Relics of Ancient China, The Asia Society, 1965, p. 41, no. 11.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Furniture, Archaic Bronzes and Works of ArtNew York21 - 22 March 2013