Lot 1494An unusual bronze ritual cylindrical tripod wine container, cover and tray, wen jiu zun and pan, Late Eastern Han dynasty, 3rd century BC; Vessel and cover 8¾ in. (22.2 cm.) high, tray 10 7/8 in. (27.5 cm.) diamEstimate 15,000 - USD 18,000. Price realised USD 18,750© Christie's Images Ltd 2013

The tripod container has a pair of mask and loose ring handles, and is raised on three stylized bear supports. The sides are encircled by a bowstring band separating two registers chased with various animals and birds amidst mountainous landscapes between decorative borders. Further chased animals are shown amidst the mountains cast on the conical cover below the phoenix-form finial. The center of the tripod tray is chased with a quatrefoil motif surrounded by racing birds and animals and a band of birds and animals divided into four panels by stylized trees, all within further decorative borders.

ProvenanceAcquired in Hong Kong, 1991.

NoteIn 1962, a cylindrical gilt-bronze vessel with a cover raised on three bear-form supports, and decorated around the sides with two bands cast in relief with animals and birds amidst mountains, was discovered at Yuyu, Shanxi, and was subsequently included in the exhibition, The Genius of China, Royal Academy, London, 29 September 1973 - 23 January 1974, p. 111, no. 175. It is engraved with an inscription, that describes it as a ''bronze vessel for warming wine" (wen jiu zun), as well as the weight, the maker, Hufu of Zhongling in Hoping, and a date, 3rd year (28 BC), which according to the entry is the first time the purpose of vessels of this shape had been named in an inscription. The entry also notes that in scenes of feasting of this period, which are carved in stone or impressed in bricks, "the tsun is shown standing on the floor between rows of guests."

Compare the similar bronze zun and mountain-form cover with phoenix-form finial, found at the Han tombs in Guangzhou and illustrated in Guangzhou Han mu (Excavation of the Han Tombs at Guangzhou), vol. 1, Beijing, 1981, p. 164 (2), where it is dated late Eastern Han dynasty, vol. II, p. 434, and illustrated in a line drawing, p. 435, no. 5. For a rubbing of the top of a tray (pan) of the same type as the present tray, see vol. II, p. 408, fig. 249.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of ArtNew York, 19 - 20 September 2013