A very rare bronze ritual pouring vessel, yi, Spring and Autumn Period, 7th century BC. Estimate $250,000 – $300,000. Price Realized $245,000. Photo Christie’s Image Ltd 2014
The vessel is raised on four intricate, openwork legs surmounted by coiled birds, and the sides are horizontally grooved between upper and lower bands of angular interlaced dragon scroll. The handle is cast with elongated scroll designs between dragon head terminals at either end, the head at the rim applied with two long-tailed feline beasts and a pair of angular openwork horns. The vessel has a mottled grey and pale green patina with some areas of encrustation. 14 3/8 in. (36.5 cm.) long, box.
Provenance: Acquired in Hong Kong, September 1993.
The Sze Yuan Tang Archaic Bronzes: Christie’s New York, 16 September 2010.
Exhibited: The Glorious Traditions of Chinese Bronzes, Singapore, 2000, no. 41.
Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth, Hong Kong Museum of Art, 2002-2006, p. 112, no. 88.
Notes: The yi was a water vessel that was often used in conjunction with a pan for the ritual washing of hands. It was a late Western Zhou adaptation of the gong and the he, and continued into the Eastern Zhou period.
Although the shape of the present yi is similar to others of Spring and Autumn date, the decoration appears to be unique. The combination of bands of interlaced dragon pattern and grooves is similar to that seen on a fanggui, dated 7th century BC, formerly in the Tsui Museum of Art, illustrated by J. So in Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, 1995, p. 30, figs. 29a-d, and subsequently sold at Christie’s New York, from the Jingguantang Collection, 18 September 1997, lot 117. Small feline-like animals decorating the Tsui vessel are also similar to those found on the handle of the present yi. So refers to the type of angular dragon scroll in the bands on the Tsui fanggui as being typical of bronzes from Qin territory. Similar scroll also decorates the sides of a ding in the Art Institute of Chicago, illustrated by So, op. cit., p. 105, fig. 6.7, where it is identified as probably from Qin, and dated to the 2nd quarter of the 7th BC.
Christie’s. FINE CHINESE CERAMICS AND WORKS OF ART, 18 – 19 September 2014, New York, Rockefeller Plaza.