© Bonhams 2001-2022

From 22 to 30 August, Bonhams presents "Summer sale of Chinese Art: A Private Asian Collection", an online sale featuring a wide array of Chinese works of art spanning more than 2000 years of Chinese history. Among the 69 lots are archaic ritual bronzes, pottery and porcelain, jades and other works of art, dating from the Shang dynasty to the Republic period. This collection was assembled by an Asian collector over the past three decades via international auction houses and renowned art dealers in New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong.

Headlining the sale are an archaic bronze 'taotie' ritual vessel, fang yi, from the late Shang dynasty (estimate HK$300,000 – 500,000), and a group of archaic ritual bronzes from the Shang dynasty to the Spring and Autumn period, some of which acquired from the prominent Alan and Simone Hartman collection. 

Another highlight from the sale is a Dingyao carved 'Daylily' dish from the Northern Song to Jin dynasty (estimate HK$100,000 – 150,000).

image (9)

image (10)

image (11)

image (1)

image (2)

image (3)

image (4)

image (5)

image (6)

image (7)

image (8)

Lot 6. An archaic bronze ritual food vesselfang yi, Late Shang Dynasty; 15cm (5 7/8in) high, box (2). Estimate HK$300,000 - HK$500,000. © Bonhams 2001-2022

ProvenanceAn old Northamptonshire private collection, England, 1960s
Acquired in the UK, 1990s.

Fangyi, which were ritual food or wine containers, appear to have been highly treasured during the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties, as there has been much fewer examples unearthed from the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties tombs comparing to other more commonly seen vessels such as dinggu and jue. It appears that the earlier fangyi had a relatively straight and less tapered body, usually bearing shorter inscription or sometimes uninscribed, as seen in the present lot. For related discussions, see R.Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Washington, 1987, pp.428-44.

The motif and form of the present lot can be compared to a fangyi of similar size, unearthed from the Fu Hao tomb, late Shang dynasty, illustrated by The Institute of Archaeology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Tomb of Lady Hao at Yinxu in Anyang, Beijing, 1980, p.34, pl.3. See also a related example of a fangyi of similar size but without flanges, see Z.F. Wu, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng [Compendium of inscriptions and images of bronzes from Shang and Zhou dynasties], Shanghai, 2012, no.13497. Another fangyi with similar craftsmanship is illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji [The Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes], Beijing, 1997, pl.67; see a further example with related decorations, illustrated in T.Wang and Y.Liu, A Selection of Early Chinese Bronzes with Inscriptions from Sotheby's and Christie's Sales, Shanghai, 2007, p.323. A related example of a fangyi without flanged corners which was sold at Christie's New York, 13 September 2018, lot 1106.


image (12)

image (13)

image (14)

image (15)

image (16)

image (17)

image (18)

image (19)

 Lot 2. An archaic bronze 'cicada' ritual food vesselding, Late Shang Dynasty; 20cm (7 7/8in) high, box. Estimate HK$200,000 - HK$300,000. © Bonhams 2001-2022

ProvenanceCollection of Alan and Simone Hartman
Hartman Rare Art, New York, 2000s.

Note: Cicada was a popular motif on ritual bronzes from late Shang to early Western Zhou dynasties, which was also found on other materials such as jades. Cicada motif on the late Shang bronzes was usually depicted spade-headed with a heart-shaped body and without legs, unlike the design in the Western Zhou dynasty where the cicadas were more often depicted with a slender body and four legs; see a discussion by Zhang Maorong, Shang, Xizhou Qingtongqi Xieshi Dongwu Wenshi Chubu Yanjiu (The Study of Figurative Animal Motifs on Bronzes in the Shang and Western Zhou Dynasties) in Xibu Kaogu: Cong Zhongya Dao Chang'an (The Archaeology of the West: from Central Asia to Chang'an), Shanghai, 2011, pp.99-100.

Compare a closely related bronze ding, late Shang dynasty, in the Shanghai Museum, which is illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji (Complete Collection of Chinese Archaic Bronzes), vol.2, Beijing, 1998, pl.31. See also two bronze ding vessels unearthed from Yinxu, the last capital of Shang, decorated with stylised cicadas, illustrated in ibid, pls.12 and 13. Another similar example of an archaic bronze 'cicada' ding from the mid-Shang dynasty is illustrated in Shang Ritual Bronzes in the National Palace Museum Collection, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1998, pl.13. See a further related example sold at Christie's New York, 14 September 2018, lot 1108.

image (20)

image (21)

image (22)

image (23)

image (24)

image (25)

Lot 4. An archaic bronze ritual bellYongzhong, Late Western Zhou dynasty; 29cm (11 3/8in) high, box. Estimate HK$150,000 - HK$200,000© Bonhams 2001-2022

ProvenanceCollection of Alan and Simone Hartman
Hartman Rare Art, New York, 1990s.

Note: Bells of this type were made in graduated sizes to form a tuned set. According to Zhou Li (the Rites of Zhou) from the Eastern Zhou period, this kind of bronze bells were only allowed to be possessed by the Kings, Marquises and other high ranking groups.

The inscription on the bell reads fu, ci meishoukang, qishen chunyou, leyu yongming, you 福,賜眉壽康,其身純祐,樂于永命,友, where the first and last characters suggest a continuation to a sentence on a smaller and larger bells of a set. It may be translated as "[someone receiving certain reward, hence making this set of bell] to wish [the King] longevity with blessing from God, which will also grant the owner of this bell happiness and long life."

The form and decoration is closely related to another late Western Zhou bronze bell, in the Shannxi Provincial Museum, bearing the same character you 友, illustrated in Shannxi sheng bowuguan, Shannxi sheng wenwu guanli weiyuanhui cang qingtong tushi [The Illustrated Catalogue of Archaic Bronze in the Shannxi Provincial Museum and the Relics Management Office of Shannxi Province], Beijing, 1960, p.124.

Compare a related example of a larger archaic bronze 'phoenix' yongzhong of a set of eight, excavated from the tomb of a high-ranking noble of the Guo state during the late Western Zhou dynasty to the early Spring and Autumn period in Sanmenxia, Henan province, now in the collection of Henan Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and Archaeology, illustrated in Zhongguo Qingtongqi Quanji [Complete Collection of Chinese Archaic Bronzes], vol.7: Eastern Zhou I, Beijing, 1998, pl.16. Compare also with a bronze bell in similar size and design, which was sold at Christie's New York, 16 September 2010, lot 829.

image (26)

image (27)

image (28)

image (29)

image (30)

Lot 9. Dingyao carved 'Daylily' dish, Northern Song-Jin dynasty  (960-1234); 14.8cm (5 7/8in) diam., box (2). Estimate HK$100,000 - HK$150,000© Bonhams 2001-2022

ProvenanceSotheby's Hong Kong, 04 April 2016, lot 2832.

Bonhams. Summer Sale of Chinese Art: A Private Asian Collection, Hong Kong, ending from 30 August 2022, 10:00 HKT