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Lot 58. An archaic bronze wine vessel, gu, Late Shang dynasty, 12th – 11th century BC; 32 cm, 12 ½ inEstimate: 600,000 - 800,000 HKD. Lot sold 1,890,000 HKD. Courtesy Sotheby's.

the elegantly curved slender vessel resting on a tall foot-ring, crisply cast on the middle and lower sections with fine zoomorphic masks with prominent eyes, ears, horns centred on notched flanges, against a ground of intricate leiwen spiral, all below the tall trumpet neck decorated with shield blades filled with further masks rising from a band of angular serpents, the inner foot with an inscription probably reading Ya niu ding gu, the inner foot with an inscription probably reading Ya ding gu, wood stand and Japanese wood box.

Provenance: Yamanaka & Co., Ltd.
Collection of Mrs Christian R. Holmes (1871-1941).
Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 14th/15th November 1963, lot 258.
Mayuyama & Co., Ltd, Tokyo.
Hirano Kotoken, Tokyo.
Literature: Umehara Sueji, Shina Kodo Seika/Selected Relics of Ancient Chinese Bronzes from Collections in Europe and America, vol. 1, Osaka, 1933, cat. no. 53.
Selected Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Collection of Mrs Christian R. Holmes, n.d.
Noel Barnard and Cheung Kwong-Yue, Rubbings and Hand Copies of Bronze Inscriptions in Chinese, Japanese, European, American, and Australasian Collections, Taipei, 1978, vol. 7, no. 1080.

Note: The present gu is notable for its fine casting which creates an elegant silhouette and with its exquisite ornamentation, is typical of the final stage of the development in Anyang. This style is characterised by the high-raised motifs against the ground patterns. For the most refined examples such as the present piece, the main taotie masks are further detailed by intaglios and the background is interspersed with leiwen spirals.

 A closely related gu from the Sackler Collection in the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Washington D.C., is discussed and illustrated in Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collection, Washington, D.C., 1987, p. 255, no. 38; another similar gu vessel, unearthed in 2001 from Huayuanzhuang village, Anyang city, Henan province is illustrated in Yinxu xinchutu qingtongqi [Ritual bronzes recently excavated in Yinxu], Kunming, 2008, p. 152, no. 62; and another example with a pictogram of the clan li dao from the collection of H.E. Alexandre J. Argyropoulos, included in Jean-Pierre Dubosc, Mostra d'Arte Cinese, Venice, 1954, cat. no. 6, was sold in our New York rooms, 17th September 2013, lot 1.

Sotheby's. Monochrome II, 9 October 2020, Hong Kong