A rare archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (Lei), Late Shang dynasty | 商末 需祖庚罍
A rare archaic bronze ritual wine vessel (Lei)
Late Shang dynasty
of baluster form, the wide ovoid body rising from a short, slightly splayed foot to a waisted neck encircled by two raised fillets, cast around the broad shoulder with a band enclosing six large 'whorl' medallions, interrupted by a pair of loop handles suspending loose rings, each handle issuing from a bovine mask detailed with protruding eyes, pricked ears, and large horns, the lower body set with a further loop handle, the interior neck cast with a three-character inscription reading xu zu geng
Height 16¾ in., 42.6 cm
The body with areas of restored breaks. X-Ray available upon request.
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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.
Sotheby's London, 18th November 1998, lot 802.
Bronze lei of this type cast with inscriptions are rare. See a related lei, discovered from a late Shang dynasty hoard in Beidong village, Liaoning province, published in 'Liaoning Kazuoxian Beidongcun faxian Yindai qingtongqi [Yin dynasty bronze discovered in Beidong village, Kazuo county, Liaoning province]', Kaogu, no. 4, 1973, pl. 7, fig. 1, together with four others, but without inscription, ibid., pl. 6, fig. 3 and pl. 7, figs 2, 3, and 4; one inscribed with two characters, in the Sumitomo Collection, published in Sen-Oku Hakuko Kan: Sumitomo Collection [Ancient Art from the Sumitomo collection], Kyoto, 2002, pl. 115; another in the Shaanxi Provincial Museum, illustrated in Zhongguo wenwu jinghua daquan [Compendium of Chinese bronzes], Taipei, 1993, p. 35, no. 123; a fourth inscribed with six characters, published in Li Xueqin, Zhongguo meishu quanji. Gongyi meishu bian 4 Qingtongqi Shang [Complete collection of Chinese arts. Decorative arts no. 4. Archaic bronzes], vol. 1, Beijing, 1985, pl. 80; and the Zi Mei lei sold in these rooms, 20th March 2019, lot 660.
The present lei belongs to a small group of late Shang dynasty bronzes inscribed with the rare clan pictogram Xu. For other vessels from the group, see two bronze ding, each inscribed with a three-character inscription reading Fu Xin Xu, published in The Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, Yin Zhou jinwen jicheng [Compendium of Yin and Zhou bronze inscriptions], Beijing, 2007, nos 01635 and 01636; and two bronze ge each cast with the Xu pictogram, one from the British Museum, London, and the other formerly in the collection of Qu Mufu (1769-1844), published in Wu Zhenfeng, Shang Zhou qingtongqi mingwen ji tuxiang jicheng [Compendium of inscriptions and images of bronzes from Shang and Zhou dynasties], vol. 30, Shanghai, 2012, nos 16038 and 16039.