Lot 33. An archaic bronze ritual food vessel and cover (Gui), Western Zhou dynasty. Width 13½ in., 34.2 cm. Estimate: 80,000 - 120,000 USD. Lot sold: 151,200 USD. © Sotheby's 2021
the compressed globular body raised on three mask-and-paw legs beneath a waisted circular foot, cast with recessed horizontal bands between borders of stylized birds at the rim and abstract cicada-lappets at the foot, set to each side with D-form handles issuing from large horned-animal masks and suspending tabs at the underside, the domed cover cast with a further frieze of stylized birds beneath recessed bands and a flaring circular knop, the surface with bright green malachite patina mottled with russet patches, the interior of the cover and base with matching crossed arrow pictograms which may be read as ci.
Note: Elevated on three legs and decorated with horizontal grooves, this vessel represents one of the archetypal examples of gui produced during the late Western Zhou period (c. 1046-771 BC). Among the gui with comparable motifs, however, the present lot is distinguished by the shape of the spiral horns on its handles and the paw feet. Inscriptions found on vessels of this type identify them as food containers used for sacrificial purposes.
Closely related examples can be found in important public collections, including two larger vessels, both with inscriptions but one without a cover, in the Palace Museum, Beijing (acc. nos 新 155097 and 新 142973), illustrated in Bronzes in the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1999, pls 191 and 193; and a smaller one, possibly unearthed in Shaanxi province, in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles (acc. no. M.89.136.12a-b). Compare also two other gui, both with a coiled dragon medallion at the center of the cover and an inscription on the interior, one sold in our London rooms, 15th April 1980, lot 12, the other in these rooms, 12th June 1984, lot 55.
Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, New York, 21 September 2021