Lidded ritual ewer (he) with dragons

citation

Historical period(s)
ca. 1200-1100 BCE
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
H x W x D (overall): 18.2 x 18.7 x 21 cm (7 3/16 x 7 3/8 x 8 1/4 in)
Geography
China, Yangzi River Valley
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Accession Number
F1942.1a-b
On View Location
Currently not on view
Classification(s)
Metalwork, Vessel
Type

Ritual vessel

Keywords
casting, China, Shang dynasty (ca. 1600 - ca. 1050 BCE), wine, WWII-era provenance
Provenance

Excavated in Anyang, Henan province, China [1]

From 1940 to 1941
C.T. Loo & Company, New York from November 1940 [2]

From 1941
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C.T. Loo & Company on September 29, 1941 [3]

Notes:

[1] According to Mizuno Seiichi, In Shu seidoki to tama (Tokyo, Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 1959), p. 63, pls. 40, 41.

[2] See C. T. Loo's stockcard no. 87003: "Bronze jar with cover Chou Bronze TSUN with cover in the form of a Human mask with ornaments. Turquoise patina SHANG," Frank Caro Archive, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, copy in object file. The object was taken by Loo to the Freer Gallery for examination on January 17, 1941.

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

Previous Owner(s)

C.T. Loo & Company active 1908-1950

Label

Does the lid of this vessel show a Chinese dragon with a human face, or a person changing into a horned serpent? While it may seem cartoonish today, the haunting combination of the familiar and the supernatural might represent the mysteries of the spirit world, thus transforming a simple pear-shaped ewer (he) into an intriguing piece of sculpture.

The head connects to a reptilian body that spirals around the container to end with a pointed tail. Two clawed arms reach forward towards the spout, which is held in the mouths of smaller coiling dragons. This unique ewer was probably made in a major bronze casting center in one of China’s southern provinces.

Published References
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Mr. R.J. Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 39, p. 223.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 4, p. 153.
  • 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. 34-35, pls. 13-14.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 9.
  • Grace Dunham Guest A.G. Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 1.
  • Mario Bussagli. Chinese Bronzes. London and New York. p. 10, pl. 1.
  • Chen Mengjia. Yin Zhou qing tong qi fen lei tu lu (Yin-Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i fen lei t'u lu). 2 vols., Dongjing. fig. 30.
  • Chugoku bijutsu (Chinese Art in Western Collections). 5 vols., Tokyo, 1972-1973. fig. 19.
  • Higuchi Takayasu. Chugoku seidoki hyakusen., 1 hen. Tokyo. pl. 12.
  • Chung-kuo tiao su shih t'u lu. Chung-kuo mei shu shih t'u lu ts'ung shu Shanghai. p. 23.
  • J. LeRoy Davidson. The Flange on Chinese Bronzes. no. 14 Washington and Zurich. p. 221, fig. 10.
  • The Encyclopedia of World Art. 17 vols., New York, 1959-1968. pl. 221.
  • Theresa B. Frisch. Scythian Art and Some Chinese Parallels, Part I. vol. 2, no. 1. pp. 16-24, fig. 1b.
  • Hai wai i chen (Chinese Art in Overseas Collections). Taipei, 1985. vol. 2, p. 53.
  • Hayashi. Research of Gods of Ancient China. p. 3.
  • Bernhard Karlgren. Some New Bronzes in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. no. 24 Stockholm. pp. 11-25, fig. 67.
  • Lin-ts'an Li. Chung-kuo ti i shu kuang hui. no. 20, . p. 14.
  • Liu Wang-hang. Chiu yu ch'ing t'ung chiu ch'i. No. 22 Taipei. .
  • Mizuno Seiichi. In Shu seidoki to tama (alt. spelling: In-sho seidoki to gyoku) (Bronzes and Jades of Ancient China). Tokyo. pls. 40-41.
  • Hugo Munsterberg. An Anthropomorphic Deity from Ancient China. New Series, vol. 3, no. 4, 1951. pp. 147-152.
  • Hugo Munsterberg. A Short History of Chinese Art. New York, 1949. pl. 5.
  • Laurence Sickman Alexander Coburn Soper. The Art and Architecture of China. The Pelican History of Art London and Baltimore. pl. 7.
  • T'an Tan-chiung. T'ung ch'i kai shu. Taipei. pls. 45-47, 52.
  • T'an Tan-chiung. Chung-hua i-shu t'u-lu (Chinese Art). Taipei. pl. 59.
  • T'an Tan-chiung The National Palace Museum, Taiwan. Coils and Undulations. vol. 2 Taipei, October 1967. pp. 33-39, pls. 5-7.
  • Sueji Umehara. In-kyo (Yin hsu: Ancient Capital of the Shang Dynasty at An-yang). Tokyo. pl. 115.
  • Alfred Salmony. Art and Thought, Issued in Honour of Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy on the Occasion of his 70th Birthday. London. pl. 34, fig. 6.
  • Cheng Te-k'un. Archaeology in China. 3 vols., Cambridge, England. pl. 47b.
  • Florance Waterbury. Speculations on the Significance of a Ho in the Freer Gallery. vol. 15, no. 1/2 Leipzig. pp. 114-124.
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. 222.
  • William Watson. China Before the Han Dynasty. Ancient Peoples and Places, vol. 23 New York. fig. 17.
  • Charles D. Weber. Chinese Pictorial Bronze Vessels of the Late Chou Period, Part I (of IV). vol. 28, no. 2/3 Washington and Zurich. pp. 107-154, fig. 18j-k.
  • Zusetsu sekai bunkashi taikei (Cultural History of the World). 27 vols., Tokyo, 1958-1961. p. 26, fig. 11.
  • Yuan Te-hsing. A Discussion of the Dragon Motif in the Decoration of a Kuei. vol. 13, no. 2 Taipei, May-June 1978. fig. 3.
  • Sekai bijutsu zenshu (A Complete Collection of World Art). 40 vols., Tokyo, F1951-1953. cat. 62-63.
  • Meng-chia Ch'en. Style of Chinese Bronzes. vol. 1 Honolulu, 1945-1946. pl. 5, fig. 30.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
Rights Statement

Copyright with museum