Lot 503. A bronze ritual wine vessel, pou, Late Shang Dynasty, 13th-12th century BC; 13 in. (33 cm.) diam. Estimate USD 200,000 - USD 300,000. Price realised USD 237,500. © Christie's 2021
The bulbous body is flat cast around the sides with a wide frieze of three large taotie masks formed by pairs of dragons with large eyes, scroll-filled bodies and raised tails confronted on a narrow flange, each mask bordered by slender descending dragons, below a band of nine dragons with rounded eyes, hooked beaks and coiled tails, all facing in the same direction, on the sloping shoulder below three bowstring bands that rise to the everted rim, the whole raised on a high, slightly flared foot encircled by a narrow band formed by three panels of scrolls below three apertures. The vessel has allover light malachite encrustation and some areas of brownish-grey patina.
Literature: D. Shapiro, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, A Personal Appreciation, London, 2013, pp. 92-95 and 137.
J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Bronzes: The Collection of Daniel Shapiro, New York, 2014, no. 11.
Exhibited: New York, J. J. Lally & Co., Chinese Archaic Bronzes: The Collection of Daniel Shapiro, 14 March- 5 April 2014, no. 11.
Note: Pou, globular jars raised on a high foot, first appeared in bronze during the late Erligang period (1400-1300 BC) and continued to be made throughout the Shang dynasty.
The present vessel is similar both in form and decoration to one in the Qing Court Collection illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Bronze Ritual Vessels and Musical Instruments, Beijing, 2007, p. 123, no. 80. Another similar pou, excavated at Xiejiagou, Qingjian county, Shaanxi province, and now in the Suide County Museum, is illustrated in Shaanxi chutu Shang Zhou qingtongqi, Vol. I, Beijing, 1979, p. 71, pl. 67, and again by Li (ed.),The Shaanxi Bronzes, Xi'an, 1994, p. 227, no. 187, where it is dated to the mid-Shang period. See, also, the similar pou illustrated by Wang Tao, Chinese Bronzes from the Meiyintang Collection, London, 2009, pp. 124-125, no. 56. On this latter pou, the eyes of the nine dragons that form the band on the shoulder are smaller, as are the eyes of the taotie masks.