Early Western Zhou Dynasty,
11th -10th Century BCE
Height: 14.3 cm.
Width: 27.6 cm.
Galaxie Art, Hong Kong 1988-89
Michael B. Weisbrod, Inc., New York
J. Abraham Cohen Collection, (purchased 1989)
Weisbrod Chinese Art, Ltd, New York Important
North American Collection, 2007
Michael B. Weisbrod, Inc., New York, Metal Mud and Minerals, 1989.
Michael B. Weisbrod, Inc., New York, Metal, Mud, and Minerals, 1989.
The gui has a wide bowl with an S-shaped profile, two large loop handles and a tall ring foot. It is decorated with raised animal and geometric designs arranged in horizontal friezes. The main image is a taotie mask placed at the very center of the belly on opposite sides of the vessel. Flanking the mask and the split body with its curled tail and long arms are a pair of kui, legless profile dragons, standing on their noses. Above this main mask is a smaller projecting mask, placed on the central axis of each side interrupting a band of alternating dragons and whorl circles.
A band of triangular lappets circles the flaring neck. The tall foot is decorated with a frieze of “bottle horn” profile dragons arranged symmetrically on either side of a central flange on a hooked shield like motif. Each of the large handles is modeled in the form of a composite bird-like creature with a horned head, long wings and legs and tail feathers modeled on pendant lugs below the handle. Green encrustation covers one side of the gui, and is partly removed on the other side exposing a deep cuprite red patina.
The elimination of the dense background of tightly wound spirals known as leizven began among a few late Shang bronzes found at Anyang. In the early Western Zhou period, the simplification of traditional Shang decoration proceeded rapidly. Even the loose recessed scrolls which once enhanced the raised elements of the animal motifs are eliminated. Here the raised mask and recessed ground share the same smooth surface.
A similar gui on a matching socle is in the City Art Museum of St. Louis (Kidder, Early Chinese Bronzes, pl. XXI) and another one in a Japanese collection is illustrated in Toyo Bijutsu, vol. 5 (Asiatic Art in Japanese Collections: Chinese Archaic Bronzes), pl. 63.
Other gui, similarly devoid of background leiwen, were excavated from early Western Zhou sites in Shaanxi province including Baoji city (Shaanxi Chutu Shang Zhou Qingtongqi, vol. 4, pl. 18), Caojiawan in Longxian (Ibid., vol. 3, pl. 150) and Dayuancun in Fengxi (Kaogu 1986 no. 11, pl. II, 3).