Leading Bronzes from Christie’s Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art

We introduced some exquisite ceramic treasures from East Asian collection, which will be offered at Christie’s New York in May. In this article, we are going to present three highlighted bronzes from Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art.

Leading the sale is a bronze ritual wine vessel, zun, late Shang to early Western Zhou Dynasty (12th-10th Century BC) with an estimate of £200,000 - 400,000. The inside of the foot of the vessel bears an inscription consisting of four characters, Wei Fu Fu Xin. A dedication to Fu Xin (Father Xin) is accompanied by two graphs.

Zun is a type of Chinese ritual wine vessels, sometime designed in the shape of animals like a dragon, an ox or a tiger. The bulbous mid-section and the spreading lower body of the present vessel are cast with taotie masks interspersed with thick vertical flanges. Upright blades decorate the wide flaring cylindrical neck, also separated by flanges which protrude beyond the edge of the mouth rim.

Its provenance dates back to the early 20th century when it was kept in the collection of a Kyoto collector. Then it was acquired by Dr. A. F. Philips (1874-1951), one of the founders of electronics company Philips. In 1978, it was auctioned at Sotheby’s London.

Dr. A. F. Philips (1874-1951)

Another highlight is a rare gold and silver-inland bronze ritual vessel, zun, from Ming dynasty (17th century). The vessel reputedly belonged to Bluett & Sons, a major dealer in Chinese works of art in London. Estimated at £100,000 - 150,000, the vessel is cast as a standing mythical bird with head facing forward, carrying a twin-handled vase decorated with monster masks between a pair of upswept wings.

This inlaid bronze bird and vase group is a fine example of the art objects made in the late Ming to early Qing period, which reflect a passionate interest in antiquities not only within the scholar class, but also amongst the upper echelons of the newly wealthy merchant class.

This handsome bird that closely resembling a phoenix is usually known in Chinese as a ‘heavenly chicken’ (tianji). It denotes an auspicious meaning because ‘chicken’ (ji) in Chinese is a pun for ji (luck). In the Qing dynasty, this form was not only popular in bronze, but was also made in cloisonné enamel, porcelain and jade.

A large gilt-bronze figure of Guanyin, with a bronze stand, from the Ming dynasty (16th-17th century) is estimated at £80,000 - 120,000. Represented on the figure is one of the most popular and venerated bodhisattva in Mahayanist Buddhism – Avalokiteśvara, known in China as Guanyin. In China, Guanyin appears in both male and female form, but in the Ming period is frequently androgynous.

The name, Guanyin, means ‘the one who perceives the sounds of the world’. It refers to the compassionate bodhisattva’s ability to hear the cries of all mankind, and to strive endlessly to help those who offer prayers.

The willow in the figure’s right hand symbolizes the willingness and ability to heal people’s illness and to fulfil their needs. In the current figure’s left hand is a cup. Some Guanyin figures alternatively hold a flask in their left hand. Both the flask and the cup are present to contain water – the dew of compassion – which can be used to cure suffering, purify the body and the mind, and extend life.


Top three lots

A Magnificent and Important Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel, Zun
Late Shang- Early Western Zhou Dynasty (12th-10th Century BC)

Lot no.: 40
Height: 31.2cm

  • S. Kawai Collection, Kyoto.
  • Property of the Late Dr. A. F. Philips (1874-1951).
  • Sotheby's, London, 30 March 1978, lot 21.
  • From an important private European collection.

Estimate: £200,000 - 400,000

A Rare Gold and Silver-Inlaid Bronze Archaistic Bird-form Ritual Vessel, Zun
Ming Dynasty, 17th Century

Lot no.: 77
Height: 37cm

  • By repute, with Bluett & Sons, London, then Michael Goedhuis, London.

Estimate: £100,000 - 150,000

A Large Finely Cast Gilt-bronze Figure of Guanyin, and a Bronze Stand
Ming Dynasty, 16th-17th Century

Lot no: 166
Height: 79cm

  • Acquired prior to 1970.

Estimate: £80,000 - 120,000

Auction details

Auction house: Christie’s London
Sale: Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art
Lots offered: 281
2018/5/11|10am - 4:30pm
2018/5/12 - 13|12pm - 5pm
2018/5/14|9am - 4:30pm
2018/5/15|11am (Lot 31 - 149)
2018/5/15|2pm (Lot 150 - 311)