Ritual wine warmer with taotie

In cross section the body of the jue is a pointed oval, with the pointed ends corresponding with the positions of the extended pouring spout and lip. Judging from the conformation of the vessel, the pottery piece mold assemblege during casting would have joined along the lines established by the pointed edges. The joining of the molds is clearly visible on the flat base of the vessel and along the edges of the three, thin triangular legs. Two simple posts on the rim at the base of the spout are triangular in section. It is possible that the posts may have originated in some sequence in the development of the casting process. A simple curved handle projects from one side of the jue, being centered over the leg; here again, there are visible indications of the piece mold assembly. Although this jue would have been cast in a single pour of metal, the rim has a thicker band along the upper portion. It has been suggested, although there is as yet no archaeological confirmation of that suggestion, that this feature may reflect an earlier, sheet metal tradition in which vessels would have been hammered into shape rather than cast. A horizontal band of decoration in raised thread relief embellishes the constricted waist of the vessel; the only break in the decoration occurring in the portion beneath the handle, where the piece mold asembly would have prevented it. The dominant elements of the band of decoration are the two oval, projecting eyes, which are surrounded by symmetrical raised lines. This is an early example of the taotie (^c^), or monster mask, that was to become so important a part of Shang dynasty bronze decoration.

There are some losses at either end of the lip of the jue, as well as along the edges of that lip. In addition, there are repairs on the leg beneath the handle. An old, i.e., Shang dynasty, cast-in repair is visible on the lower portion of the side of the vessel without a handle.

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Historical period(s)
Early Shang dynasty, ca. 1600-1500 BCE
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
H x W x D: 15 x 13 x 13 cm (5 7/8 x 5 1/8 x 5 1/8 in)
Geography
China, Henan province, probably Zhengzhou
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Collection
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
F1986.6a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Vessel
Type

Ritual vessel: jue

Keywords
China, Erligang period (ca. 1500 - ca. 1300 BCE), Robert Hatfield Ellsworth collection, taotie, wine
Provenance

From 1921 to 1959
Abel William Bahr (1877-1959), Ridgefield, CT, from 1921 [1]

From 1959 to about 1963
Edna H. Bahr (d. 1978), United States and England, acquired by descent from her father, Abel William Bahr, to about 1963 [2]

From about 1963
Christian Humann (died 1981), New York, purchased from Edna H. Bahr in about 1963 [3]

To 1986
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth (born 1929), New York, purchased from Christian Humann as part of the Pan Asian Collection, to 1986 [4]

From 1986
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Robert Hatfield Ellsworth in 1986 [2]

Notes:

[1] According to Curatorial Remark 6 in the object record: "The jue was originally in the collection of A.W. Bahr. It passed to his daughter, Edna Bahr. It had been in Billy's possession for many years, since 1921. It was in America until 1959, when Miss Bahr moved back to England. She sold it to Christian Humann in approximately 1963, and it came into the possession of the source when he purchased the Pan Asian Collection."

[2] See note 1.

[3] See note 1.

[4] See note 1.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Edna H. Bahr died 1978
Abel William Bahr 1877-1959
Robert Hatfield Ellsworth 1929-2014
Christian Humann 1929-1981

Description

In cross section the body of the jue is a pointed oval, with the pointed ends corresponding with the positions of the extended pouring spout and lip. Judging from the conformation of the vessel, the pottery piece mold assemblege during casting would have joined along the lines established by the pointed edges. The joining of the molds is clearly visible on the flat base of the vessel and along the edges of the three, thin triangular legs. Two simple posts on the rim at the base of the spout are triangular in section. It is possible that the posts may have originated in some sequence in the development of the casting process. A simple curved handle projects from one side of the jue, being centered over the leg; here again, there are visible indications of the piece mold assembly. Although this jue would have been cast in a single pour of metal, the rim has a thicker band along the upper portion. It has been suggested, although there is as yet no archaeological confirmation of that suggestion, that this feature may reflect an earlier, sheet metal tradition in which vessels would have been hammered into shape rather than cast. A horizontal band of decoration in raised thread relief embellishes the constricted waist of the vessel; the only break in the decoration occurring in the portion beneath the handle, where the piece mold asembly would have prevented it. The dominant elements of the band of decoration are the two oval, projecting eyes, which are surrounded by symmetrical raised lines. This is an early example of the taotie (^c^), or monster mask, that was to become so important a part of Shang dynasty bronze decoration.

There are some losses at either end of the lip of the jue, as well as along the edges of that lip. In addition, there are repairs on the leg beneath the handle. An old, i.e., Shang dynasty, cast-in repair is visible on the lower portion of the side of the vessel without a handle.

Label

This jue, with its dramatically extended spout, is one of the most ancient bronzes in the collection.  A pair of raised eyes surrounded by thin lines in relief represents a simple, early form of taotie.

Published References
  • Thomas Lawton, Joseph Chang, Stephen Allee. Brushing the Past: Later Chinese Calligraphy from the Gift of Robert Haftield Ellsworth. Exh. cat. Washington. p. 30, fig. 6.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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