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A very rare and important bronze owl-headed ritual wine vessel (hu)
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About the item

The stoutly cast pear-shaped body encircled by thirty horizontal grooves and supported on a straight ring foot, underneath a plain neck tapering on one end to a short channeled spout, the cover shaped as the head of a beaked raptor, with large eyes gazing upwards, two upright tab-shaped ears set in a shallow scrolled recess and the sharp down-curved beak separately hinged to the center of the mask, further set with a pair of loops supporting two large rings linked to a high swing handle made of movable sections, the lower-most sections secured by  a pair of nail-like knobs issuing from the shoulders, connected to the middle section by rotating hinge-like devices, in turn joined with a single yoke-shaped section over the top by the same devices as the lower-most joint, the interior of the cover engraved with a nine-character inscription, the patination of overall olive-green color, with light malachite encrustations  
US
NY, US
US

condition

This bronze is in overall good condition, except one of the loose rings is a late replacement. There is an ancient repair on the base. The surface of the bronze has been cleaned and with enhanced patination. The inscription on the inside of the cover is, according to W. Percival Yetts, a late addition. In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD "AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE PRINTED IN THE CATALOGUE.

dimensions

Height 18 1/4  in., 46.5 cm

exhibition

On Loan, British Museum London, 1979-1988.

literature

Wu Yun, Liangleixuan yiqi tushi, (An illustrated study of the ritual vessels in the Liangleixuan Studio), 1872, vol. 7, p. 2. Wu Dacheng, Kezhai jigulu, (Kezhai's [Wu Dacheng] Records of Collecting Antiquities), 1896, vol. 13, p. 14. Fang Junyi, Zhuiyizhai yiqikuanzhi kaoshi, (Interpretations of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Zhuiyizhai Studio), 1899, vol. 18, p. 7. Sheng Yu, Yuhuage jinwen, (Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Yuhuage Studio), manuscript in the Beijing University Library, p. 275. Zou An, Zhoujinwen cun, (Surviving Writings from the Zhou Dynasty), 1915, vol. 5, p. 54. Rong Geng, 'Yinzhou liyueqi kaolue', (The Researches on Ritual Bronzes from the Yin and Zhou Dynasties), Yanjing Xuebao, no. 1, 1927, p. 141, fig. 125. Wang Chen, Xu Yinwencun, (Continuation of the Surviving Writings from the Yin Dynasty), 1935, vol. 1, p. 65. Liu Tizhi, Xiaojiaojinge jinwen taben, (Rubbings of Archaic Bronze Inscriptions in the Xiaojiaojingge Studio), 1935, vol. 4, p. 77. Luo Zhenyu, Sandai jijin wencun, (Surviving Writings from the Xia, Shang, and Zhou Dynasties), 1936, vol. 12, p. 10. W. Perceval Yetts, 'A Group of Chinese Bronze Flagons', The Burlington Magazine, February 1940, pp. 38-44, pls. A and B. Rong Geng, Shangzhou yiqi tongkao, (A General Study of Archaic Bronzes in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), 1941, vol. 2, p. 378, pl. 713. William Watson, Ancient Chinese Bronzes, London, 1962, pl. 64a. Edmund Capon, Art and Archaeology in China, Sydney, 1977, pl. 47. Christian Deydier, Chinese Bronzes, New York, 1980, pl. 56. Rong Geng, Yinzhou qingtongqi tonglun, (A General Study of Archaic Bronzes in the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), Beijing, 1984, pl. 88, no. 171. Yan Yiping, Jinwen Zongji, (Corpus of Bronze Inscriptions), Taipei, 1983, no. 5425. The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yinzhou jinwen jicheng, (Compendium of Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions), Beijing, 1984, vol. 10, p. 278, no. 5339. Hayashi Minao and Higuchi Takayasu, Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Sakamoto Collection, Tokyo, 2002, pl. 11. Wu Zhenfeng, Shangzhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng, (Compendium of Inscriptions and Images of Bronzes from the Shang and Zhou Dynasties), Shanghai, 2012, vol. 22, p. 105, no. 12231. Giuseppe Eskenazi, A Dealer's Hand: The Chinese Art World Through the Eyes of Giuseppe Eskenazi, London, 2012, pp. 51-52. 

provenance

Collection of Li Hongyi (1831-1885). Collection of Wu Yun (1811-1883). Collection of Wan Zhongli (active in the second half of the 19th century). Collection of Lionel Edwards (?-1945). Sotheby's London, 8th February 1945, lot. 151. John Sparks Ltd., London, 1945. Collection of Baron Paul Hatvany (?-1977). Eskenazi Ltd., London, 1978. The British Rail Pension Fund. Sotheby's London, 12th December 1989, lot. 19.





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