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Lot 30. An inscribed archaic bronze ritual wine vessel and cover (Fanglei), Late Shang dynasty-early Western Zhou dynasty. Height 13⅞ in., 35.2 cmEstimate: 60,000 - 80,000 USDUnsold. © Sotheby's 2021

of rectangular section with wide shoulders tapering towards the tall, splayed foot, the straight neck decorated with two bow-string bands, supporting a high-domed trapezoidal cover of conforming outline surmounted by a similarly shaped finial atop a square-sectioned post, the base of the cover and the shoulders encircled by a band of raised circular whorls, the sides flanked by a pair of loop handles issuing from bovine heads, with an additional handle on the front set just above the foot, the interior of the cover cast with a four-character inscription reading Ran zuo zong yi, translating to 'Ran made this ritual vessel', Japanese wood box.

The box for this lot is inscribed with a note by Zoroku Hata II (1854-1936) in 1928.

ProvenanceNakabun, Tokyo.
Japanese Private Collection.
Christie's New York, 14th September 2012, lot 1237.

ExhibitedArt Dealers Fair and Exhibition, Tokyo, 1966, cat. no. 23.

Note: This fang lei is exceptional for its sharp and angular form as well as its simplicity in design. Vessels of this type existed as wine containers for only a short period of time from the late Shang (c. 1600-1046 BC) to early Western Zhou dynasty (1046-221 BC). The handle on the lower part of the body would have been held to tilt the vessel as its contents were being poured or ladled out.

Compare two similar but larger fang lei; one decorated with masks and whorls on both the shoulder and cover, flanked by a more elaborate pair of handles and lacking a foot, from the Avery Brundage Collection in the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco (acc. no. B60B1053); the other, decorated on front and reverse of the shoulder with a mask between two whorls, illustrated in Umehara Sueji, Shina-kodo seikwa, part 1, vol. 1, Osaka, 1933, pl. 48, preserved in the Abteilung für Ostasiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen, Berlin. See also a closely related vessel, lacking one circular whorl on each side of the cover, sold in these rooms, 20th March 2012, lot 16.

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 21 September 2021