Lot 1260. A small unusual bronze ritual tripod food vessel and cover, ding, Han dynasty (206 BC-AD 220); 6 in. (15.3 cm.) highEstimate USD 8,000 - USD 12,000Price realised USD 17,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2011.

The deep, rounded body raised on three slender legs and applied with a pair of bird-form handles suspending loose rings, the flat cover with three finials cast as seated birds with curled tails, the three birds functioning as feet when the cover is inverted, with grey and milky green patina, stand. 

Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong, 14 May 1999.

Note: The meaning of the inscription cast in relief on the base of this vessel, ma bing yi jia xiong li, is unclear, but may be literally translated as, 'horse, sickness, family, hero.'

The addition of the relief inscription on the base of this vessel is an unusual feature, but can be found on other bronze vessels of Han date, such as the hu in the Palace Museum, Beijing, which is cast in relief on its base with a nine-character inscription in seal script reading, "happiness comes with drinking wine and eating". See The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum - 28 - Bronze Articles for Daily Use, Hong Kong, 2006, pp. 62-3, no. 54. Compare, also, the bronze hu excavated in 1961 in Gaoyao Village, Shaanxi province, which is cast in relief on one side with an inscription in seal script reading, jiu jiang gong (Nine river offering), illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji - 12 - Qin Han, Beijing, 1998, p. 67, no. 65.

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art Part I and Part II Including Property from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, New York, 24 March 2011