Copper in the Arts

September 2013

Sotheby's Offered Magnificent Ritual Bronzes from the Collection of Julius Eberhardt

On September 17, Sotheby’s New York held a single owner sale of Magnificent Ritual Bronzes - Property from the Collection of Julius Eberhardt. The auction will present ten pieces that are among the finest examples of their type to have appeared at auction in recent years. Archaic bronzes of the importance and quality of those in Eberhardt collection are extremely scarce. Together they represent the most important group of Chinese archaic bronzes to have appeared at auction since the Albright-Knox sale in 2007.

A Bronze Wine VesselA Bronze Wine Vessel, Late Shang Dynasty, 12th-11th Century BC.

Distinguished by their provenance, which includes pieces going back to the celebrated Chinese collectors of the 19th century, this single owner sale is estimated to bring more than $5 million.

“I have dedicated much of my professional life to the study of archaic bronzes, and in over 20 years in the field I have rarely seen a private collection of such quality,” says Dr. Wang Tao, Head of Chinese Works of Art at Sotheby. “This sale will be a seminal auction moment offering collectors the opportunity to acquire the finest pieces from the peak of the Chinese Bronze Age, and with impeccable provenances.”

The sale will be led by A Bronze Food Vessel, Zuo Bao Yi Gui, Early Western Zhou Dynasty, 11th-10th Century BC, (est. $2/3 million, above). Sitting on a square pedestal, the front and back of the vessel is dominated by large taotie masks while striking bird handles with flamboyant tail flanges are a daring addition to a circular vessel. The most striking feature is that the taotie mask is again placed on the corners of the square pedestal. This exceptionally rare design is only found on three other pieces. This Gui was included in the seminal 1954 Chinese Art Exhibition in Venice. The intricacy of the design and casting of such fine bronze vessel would have required the most experienced mold makers and bronze casters to create a work of such complexity.

An additional highlight is an exceptionally beautiful Bronze Wine Vessel, Mu Xin Zun, also Early Western Zhou Dynasty (est. $400/600,000). It exemplifies the Western Zhou artisans’ search for richer and more lavish ornamentation by combining naturalism and abstraction on a single piece. The bronze vessel once belonged to the famous Chinese collector Pan Zuyin (1830-1890) whose legacy still lives today in many major Chinese museums as well as in his hometown Suzhou. The piece was once part of a set of three. The two other bronze vessels which were made by the same owner are now separated, one is in the collection of the Freer Gallery of Art, Washington DC, and the other in that of the Idemitsu Museum in Tokyo, both originally came from the collection of another illustrious collector Duan Fang (1861-1911).


Sotheby’s, 1334 York Ave, New York, NY, (212) 606-7000

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