Bell (bo) with birds and dragons; from a set of four

Historical period(s)
late Spring and Autumn period, Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 500--450 BCE
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
H x W: 66.4 x 47 cm (26 1/8 x 18 1/2 in) Weight: 62 kg (136.7 lb)
Geography
China, Shanxi province, State of Jin, Houma foundry
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1941.9
On View Location
Sackler Gallery 25: RESOUND: Bells of Ancient China
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Musical Instrument
Type

Bell

Keywords
bell, bird, casting, China, dragon, Eastern Zhou dynasty (770 - 221 BCE), Spring and Autumn period (770 - 476 BCE), WWII-era provenance
Provenance

From 1939 to 1941
C. T. Loo & Company, New York from at least March 1939 [1]

From 1941
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company on September 29, 1941 [2]

Notes:

[1] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 81926a: "Bell (chung) Bottom decorated by a panel of turning dragons pattern. Large bosses formed by coiled snakes separated by registers of intertwined dragons motives. Handle formed by 2 birds, swallowing the tail with spreaded wings over an intertwined snakes pattern. Rough green patina. Late Chou," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. The object was sent to the Freer Gallery for examination on May 2, 1939.

[2] See C. T. Loo's invoice, dated September 29, 1941, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948

Label

The elaborate d&‌eacute;cor of this bell--winged creatures form its suspension loop and coiled serpents serve as bosses (raised decorations)--underscores the exalted status of bronze bells, which were a luxury restricted to China's early rulers and elite. Most bells belonged to tuned sets of bell-chimes, an instrument invented in China. They were suspended from a rack and struck by a mallet. When this object was cast, bell music was no longer purely ritual in purpose but was also considered entertainment in feudal courts. Owning a set of bells was thought to bring great happiness to a family.

Published References
  • George W. Weber Jr. The Ornament of Late Chou Bronzes: A Method of Analysis. New Brunswick. pl. 52.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 262.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu [A Complete Collection of World Art]. 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 81-82, vol. 2.
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama [Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China]. Tokyo. pls. 152-153.
  • Hai wai i chen [Chinese Art in Overseas Collections]. Taipei, 1985. vol. 2: p. 125.
  • Chugoku bijutsu [Chinese Art in Western Collections]. 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. vol. 4: fig. 72.
  • Noel Barnard. Bronze Casting and Bronze Alloys in Ancient China. Monumenta serica, no. 14 Canberra. pl. 29.
  • Jenny F. So. Eastern Zhou Ritual Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. Ancient Chinese Bronzes from the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, vol. 3 New York, 1995. vol. 3. p. 377, 447, fig. 77.4, M43.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 4.
  • Compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. pp. 7, 64-65, pl. 34-35.
  • Michael Sullivan. The Arts of China., 3rd ed. Berkeley. p. 45.
  • Sherman Lee. A History of Far Eastern Art. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1964. p. 45, fig. 38.
  • Dagny Carter. Four Thousand Years of China's Art. New York. pp. 48-49.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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