Lidded ritual wine container (zun) in the form of a bird

Historical period(s)
Middle Eastern Zhou dynasty, ca. 5th century BCE
Medium
Bronze with gold inlay
Dimensions
H x W x D: 26.5 x 13.5 x 20 cm (10 7/16 x 5 5/16 x 7 7/8 in)
Geography
China, Shanxi province
Credit Line
Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1961.30a-b
On View Location
Freer Gallery 18: Art and Industry: China's Ancient Houma Foundry
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Vessel
Type

Ritual vessel: zun

Keywords
bird, casting, China, Eastern Zhou dynasty (770 - 221 BCE), inlay, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Reportedly excavated near Taiyuan, Shanxi province, China [1]

To 1915
Marcel Bing (1875-1920), Paris, France [2]

1915 to 1959
Eugene Meyer (1875-1959) and Agnes E. Meyer (1887-1970), Washington, DC and Mt. Kisco, NY, purchased from Marcel Bing through C. T. Loo, Lai Yuan & Co., New York in December 1915 [3]

1959 to 1961
Agnes E. Meyer inherited upon the death of her husband, Eugene Meyer on July 17, 1959 [4]

From 1961
Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, 1961 [4]

Notes:

[1] According to a note in C. T. Loo, Lai-Yuan & Co.'s invoice, issued to Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Meyer on December 10, 1915, copy in object file. An excavation of a similar bird-shaped bronze wine container from a fifth-century B.C. tomb in the area of Taiyuan in 1987 confirmed the traditional attribution of the Freer bronze, see Thomas Lawton and Linda Merrill, Freer: A Legacy of Art (Washington DC: Freer Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1993), pp. 223, 225, fig. 159.

[2] Bing's ownership is documented in several locations. See, for example: November 11, 1915 letter from Marcel Bing to Charles Lang Freer; letters from December 10 and 15 from Eugene Meyer to Charles Lang Freer; telegrams exchanged between Marcel Bing, Charles Lang Freer, and Eugene Meyer dating from November 15 to December 5, 1915; and February 2, 1916 letter from Charles Lang Freer to Marcel Bing. Copies of aforementioned documents in object file. See also Lawton and Merrill 1993, cited in note 1.

[3] Eugene Meyer, Agnes E. Meyer, and Charles Lang Freer negotiated with Marcel Bing to arrange a joint purchase of Bing's collection of 11 Chinese bronzes and 1 jade. See correspondence cited in note 2. The Meyers and Freer decided to divide the collection - Meyers acquiring 5 bronzes (including this object) and Freer acquiring 6 bronzes in addition to the jade -- and the price, calculating each party's payment was based on the appraisal values assigned to each piece. The Meyers ultimately sent the entire payment to C. T. Loo, Lai Yuan & Company (sometimes spelled Lai-Yuan), who in turn wired money to Bing. Lai Yuan & Company received a consigners fee from Bing. Meyers made the payment in early December 1915, with Freer paying the Meyers for the objects destined for his collection on December 14, 1915. All the objects included in this large sale, which were originally divided between the Meyers and Freer are now in the museum's collection ( F1915.102; F1915.03a-b; F1915.104; F1915.105; F1915.106a-f; F1915.107; F1915.108; F1961.30a-b; F1961.32a-b; F1968.28; F1968.29). For a full explanation of the joint endeavor between the Meyers and Freer, see: Dorota Chudzicka, "'In Love at First Sight Completely, Hopelessly, and Forever with Chinese Art': The Eugene and Agnes Meyer Collection of Chinese Art at the Freer Gallery of Art" in Collections Vol. 10, No. 3 (Summer 2004), 334-335.

Shortly after the acquisition, the Meyers lent this bronze to an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, see S. C. Bosch Reitz, Catalogue of an Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery and Sculpture, exh. cat. (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1916), cat. 340 (ill.).

[4] Eugene Meyer died in Washington D.C. on July 17, 1959. Upon his death, his wife, Agnes E. Meyer inherited the entirety of the couple's collection.

[5] See Agnes E. Meyer's Deed of Gift, dated December 21, 1961, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Marcel Bing 1875-1920
Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer (1875-1959) and (1887-1970)
C.T. Loo 1880-1957
Lai-Yuan & Company ca. 1915-April 1921

Published References
  • George W. Weber Jr. The Ornament of Late Chou Bronzes: A Method of Analysis. New Brunswick. pl. 74.
  • William Watson. On Some Categories of Archaism in Chinese Bronze. vol. 9 Washington and Ann Arbor. pl. 3.
  • Sigisbert Chrétien Bosch Reitz. Catalogue of an Exhibition of Early Chinese Pottery and Sculpture. Exh. cat. New York. fig. 340.
  • Otto Kümmel. Chinesische Kunst: zweihundert Hauptwerke der Ausstellung der Gesellschaft für Ostasiatische Kunst in der Preussischen Akademie der Künste, Berlin, 1929. Berlin. pl. II.
  • Thomas Lawton. Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer Memorial Exhibition. Exh. cat. Washington, 1971. cat. 11, pp. 22-23.
  • Thomas Lawton. Chinese Art of the Warring States Period: Change and Continuity, 480-222 B.C. Washington, 1982-1983. cat. 3, pp. 30-31.
  • Kida Takuya. Hotsuma Katori: Metal Craft Historian and Artist: Towards Establishment of "Japanism" in the Crafts. no. 11 Tokyo. p. 36, fig. 19.
  • Tseng Yu. Lung hu tou [char]. No. 42 Taipei, September 1986. p. 87.
  • Eileen M. Berry. Heritage Studies 6: To Know the Past., 2nd edition. Greenville, SC. p. 107.
  • Thomas Lawton, Linda Merrill. Freer: a legacy of art. Washington and New York, 1993. p. 224, fig. 159.
  • Dorota Chudzicka. In Love at First Sight Completely, Hopelessly, and Forever with Chinese Art: The Eugene and Agnes Meyer Collection of Chinese Art at the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 10, no. 3, Summer 2004. pp. 334-335.
  • Report from America. vol. 28, no. 4, Winter 1982-1983. pp. 384-386, fig. 3.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 112, p. 569.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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