Archaic Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel Owned by J.T. Tai Hammered Down for US$1.6m

An Archaic Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel from Shang dynasty led Sotheby’s Important Chinese Art in New York, hammered down for US$1.6m and became the top lot of the sale.

In Shang dynasty, YOU was used to keep wine. It was used in rituals for ancestors or ceremonies for the wind, the sun or the spirits. They came in different shapes in Shang dynasty. This shape was quite rare at the time, at the beginning of Anyang period or Yinxu period.

Christian Deydier

The wine vessel has an impeccable provenance, having previously kept in the collection of Dr. A.F. Philips (1874-1951), former CEO of the Philips Company, and in the collection of J.T. Tai (1910-1992), a Chinese antiques dealer best known for the great quality of works he collected.

The Value had talked to Christian Deydier, a specialist in archaic Chinese bronzes, who once handled the rare vessel. He acquired the present YOU from J.T. Tai in around 1987.

J.T. Tai

The vessel was made using the technique of piece mold casting, which was very difficult to master at that time. Piece mold casting requires shaping the pottery, then make a clay model of it. These clay pieces were removed in sections to form the piece-molds. The model was then shaved down to become the core and the piece-molds were reassembled around the core. Molten bronze would then be poured into the space between the mold and the core in order to make the piece.

Considering the sophisticated craftsmanship and the illustrious provenance of the vessel, the estimate US$1.5m-2.5m was an attractive price point. However, bidders’ reception was not as enthusiastic as expected. Started at US$1.2m, the wine vessel was hammered down at US$1.6m after a tepid bidding lasted 2 minutes. It was sold for US$1.935m (premium included) to a bidder in the room.



An Extremely Rare and Important Archaic Bronze Ritual Wine Vessel And Cover (YOU)
Shang Dynasty, Yinxu Period

Lot no.: 583
Height: 28.7cm
Provenance: (consolidated by The Value)

  • Collection of Huang Jun (1880-1952), Beijing.
  • Collection of Dr. A.F. Philips (1874-1951).
  • Sotheby's London, 30th March 1978, lot 13.
  • Collection of J.T. Tai (1910-1992), New York.
  • Christian Deydier, Paris.
  • Collection of Wahl-Rostagni, Rome.
  • French Private Collection.

Estimate: US$1,500,000 - 2,500,000
Hammer price: US$1,600,000
Price realized: US$1,935,000

Auction details

Auction house: Sotheby’s New York
Sale: Important Chinese Art
Date: 21 March 2018