Lidded ritual wine container (you) with taotie and dragons

Historical period(s)
middle Anyang period, Late Shang dynasty, ca. 1200-1100 BCE
H x W x D: 22 x 19.8 x 17.5 cm (8 11/16 x 7 13/16 x 6 7/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: you

Anyang period (ca. 1300 - ca. 1050 BCE), casting, China, dragon, taotie, WWII-era provenance

Reportedly excavated in Anhui province, China [1]

Tonying and Company, New York [2]

From at least 1929 to 1941
Mrs. Christian R. Holmes (1871-1941), New York and "The Chimneys," Sands Point, Port Washington, Long Island, from at least 1929 [3]

From 1941 to 1963
Holmes Foundation, New York [4]

Sale, New York, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Important Chinese Art: Early Dynastic Bronzes, Silver and Gold...Collected by the Late Mrs. Christian R. Holmes, New York, Sold by the Order of the Holmes Foundation, November 14-15, 1963, lot 266 (ill. on the cover): "Bronze Covered Wine Vessel (Yu)"

From 1963 to 1965
J. T. Tai & Co., New York, New York, purchased at Sale, Parke-Bernet Galleries, Important Chinese Art..., November 14-15, 1963 [5]

From probably 1965 to 1987
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York, purchased probably from J. T. Tai & Co., New York, New York [6]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, gift of Dr. Arthur M. Sackler on September 11, 1987 [7]


[1] According to Jörg Trübner, Yu und Kuang: Zur Typologie der Chinesischen Bronzen (Leipzig: Klinkhardt & Biermann Verlag, 1929), p. 28. Cheng Mengjia provides the same provenance but mentions also a conflicting report that the vessel came from the Wenzhou area of Zhejiang, see Cheng Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu (In Shu seidoki bunrui zuroku; A Corpus of Chinese Bronzes in American Collections) (Tokyo: Kyuko Shoin, 1977), A586. See also Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections (Washington, DC: The Arthur M. Sackler Foundation; Cambridge, Mass.: The Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Harvard University, 1987), p. 373, no. 64.

[2] The Tonying and Company's stock number "B81" painted in red on the object's base indicates that the vessel at some point was handled by the gallery.

[3] See Trübner 1929, p. 28. When it entered the collection of Mrs. Holmes, the you was accompanied by fifteen jade beads said to have been found inside it (see provenance records for S1987.935.1-15).

[4] Mrs. Holmes had established the Holmes Foundation to continue her charity work after her death.

[5] See Joan Marcia Hartman, “America,” Oriental Art 10, 1 (Spring 1964), p. 47.

[6] According to information provided by Arthur M. Sackler Foundation, October 2009, the jades with which the bronze was auctioned in July 1963 were purchased by Arthur M. Sackler from J. T. Tai in 1965, see provenance records for S1987.935.1-15. The bronze was most probably purchased by Sackler from the same source.

[7] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Parke-Bernet Galleries
Holmes Foundation
Mrs. Christian R. Holmes 1871-1941
Tonying and Company established 1902
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987
J.T. Tai & Co. established in 1950

Published References
  • Jörg Trübner. Yu und Kuang: Zur Typologie der Chinesischen Bronzen. Leipzig. p. 28, pl. 14.
  • Robert W. Bagley. Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections: Volume 1 of Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections. vol. 1, Washington and Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1987. cat. 64, pp. 372-377.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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