Lot 201. A rare large inscribed archaic bronze ritual wine vessel and cover, Hu, Early Western Zhou dynasty. Overall height 35.5 cm, 14 in. Lot sold: £176,400 (Estimate: £100,000 - £200,000)© 2022 Sotheby's.

cast to the interiors of the cover and vessel with a six-character inscription reading Qi Zuo Fu Yi Zun Yi (Qi made this precious vessel for Father Yi); together with Yu Xingwu, Shuangjianyi guqiwu tulu [Catalogue of ancient objects from the Shuangjianyi], vols 1-2, Beijing, 1940.

Property from a distinguished European Private Collection.

Provenance: Reputedly discovered in Baoji, Shaanxi Province during the late 1920s.
Collection of Yu Xingwu (1896-1984).
Acquired in China during the early 1940s. 
Literature: Wang Chen, Xuyinwencun [Continuation of the surviving writings from the Yin dynasty], vol. 2, Beijing, 1935, p. 73.5 (inscription of the cover).
Luo Zhenyu, Sandai jijin wencun [Surviving writings from the Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties], vol. 6, 1937, p. 32.3 (inscription of the cover).
Yu Xingwu, Shuangjianyi guqiwu tuli [Catalogue of ancient objects from the Shuangjianyi], vol.1, Beijing, 1940, pl. 19.
Yan Yiping, Jinwen Zongji [Corpus of bronze inscriptions], Taipei, 1983, no. 5366 (inscription of the cover).
Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, ed., Yinzhou jinwen jicheng [Compendium of Yin and Zhou bronze inscriptions], Beijing, 2007, nos 0502.1 and 0502.2.
Chen Chao-jung, ed., Baoji Daijiawan yu Shigushan chutu Shang Zhou qingtongqi [Shang and Zhou bronzes excavated from Daijiawan and Shigu Mountain in Baoji], Taipei, 2015, pl. 028.

NoteFinely cast with a well-proportioned pear-shaped body and narrow horizontal decorative bands depicting taotie with bulging eyes, this well-published bronze vessel is an outstanding example of the early Western Zhou period. Wine vessels such as the present emerged as one of the major ceremonial receptacles at ancestral rituals in the late Shang dynasty and remained prominent until the mid-Western Zhou dynasty.

The inscription reads Qi zuo fu yi zun yi, which may be translated as 'Qi made this precious vessel for Father Yi'. The owner of this vessel is named Qi, which appears to be a clan active from as early as the late Shang dynasty. Surviving vessels from this family are extremely rare. See a bronze ritual wine vessel, zun, attributed to the late Shang dynasty, formerly in the Avery Brundage collection, and now in the Asian Art Museum of San Francesco, San Francisco, illustrated in René-Yvon Lefebvre d'Argencé, Bronze Vessels of Ancient China in the Avery Brundage Collection, Seattle, 1977, pl. 14.


Fig. 1 Yu Xingwu, Shuangjianyi guqiwu tuli [Catalogue of ancient objects from the Shuangjianyi], vol.1, Beijing, 1940, pl. 19.

Compare a similar bronze wine vessel and cover, with a three character inscription reading Chai Fu Yi, excavated in 1962 from Feng Jiabo, Yi Cheng county, preserved in the Shanxi Provincial museum, Taiyuan, illustrated in Shanxi Wenwu Guancang zhenpin/Selected Cultural Relics From Local Museums in Shanxi, Taiyuan, 1996, pl. 52; and another flanked by a pair of prominent rhinoceros heads and cast to the interior of the vessel with a fourty-two character inscription, discovered in Anyang, Henan province and now preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Gugong Qingtongqi/Bronzes in the Palace Museum, Beijing, 1999, pl. 65.

Sotheby'sMonochrome, London, 2 November 2022