Lot 636. An archaistic silver and gold-inlaid bronze jar, hu, Ming-Early Qing dynasty, 14th-early 18th century; 15 1/8 in. (38.5 cm.) high. Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 300,000. © Christie's 2021
The sides are decorated with two bands of dragon scroll within raised ropetwist borders, all above a row of pendent blades and a band of confronted bird's heads on the tall foot, which are repeated on the neck above a band of conjointed 'T' motifs and a pair of mask handles on the shoulder, all on a mottled ground imitating malachite encrustation.
Provenance: Collection of the Qianlong Emperor (1711-1799), by 1749.
Nagatani, Inc., Chicago, 2 January 1959.
Stephen Junkunc, III (d. 1978) Collection.
Literature: Liang Shizheng, Jiang Pu, Wang Youdun et al., Xiqing Gujian (Mirror of Antiquities) [prepared in the] Xiqing [Southern Study Hall], Imperial Printing Office in the Wuyingdian (Hall of Martial Valor), Forbidden City, Beijing, 1755, vol. 8, p. 36.
Note: The Junkunc inlaid bronze hu claims amongst the most impressive of pedigrees. By 1749 it was in the Qing Imperial collection, having been collected by the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1736-1795). Like his predecessors, Qianlong was a great admirer and passionate collector of antiques; indeed, he personally added more works to the imperial collections than any of his forebears. Following in the footsteps of the Northern Song Emperor Huizong (r. 1101-1125), Qianlong commissioned illustrated catalogues of specific categories of his collection. These included the Shiqu baoji (Shiqu Catalogue of the Imperial Collections); Midian zhulin (Court Collection of Treasures), and the Tianlu lin lang (Tianlu Collection of Masterpieces), and the 40-volume catalogue of his ancient Chinese bronzes, the Xiqing gujian (Mirror of Antiquities [prepared in the] Xiqing [Southern Study Hall]). Compiled from 1749-1755, this catalogue was produced by the Imperial Printing Office in the Wuyingdian (Hall of Martial Valor). The Junkunc inlaid bronze hu is documented in this catalogue in vol. 8, p. 36 (Fig. 1).
Fig 1. The Junkunc inlaid bronze hu as documented in the Xiqing gujian (Mirror of Antiquities [prepared in the] Xiqing [Southern Study Hall]), Imperial Printing Office in the Wuyingdian (Hall of Martial Valor), Forbidden City, Beijing, 1755, vol. 8, p. 36.
The Junkunc bronze hu finds its inspiration in ancient bronze vessels of the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BC), such as the late Spring and Autumn, late 6th-early 5th century BC, bronze hu sold at Christie’s New York, 13 September 2019, lot 809. (Fig. 2) Like the late Spring and Autumn hu, the Junkunc vessel features raised bands imitating braided rope and is flanked on the shoulders by a pair of taotie masks. The silver and gold-inlaid designs on the Junkunc vessel represent free interpretations of ancient dragon scroll designs and other decorative motifs that embellished the surfaces of early bronzes.
Fig 2. A bronze hu, late Spring and Autumn period, late 6th-early 5th century BC, sold at Christie’s New York, 13 September 2019, lot 809. © Christie's Ltd.