- Gallery Text
Although there are no contemporaneous records explaining the meaning of the decorations on Shang bronzes, the preponderance of zoomorphic motifs and the emergence of animal-shaped vessels made of bronze or jade are clear indications of the importance of animals in the repertoire of Shang artisans. The principle Shang motif was the animal mask, referred to in later texts as a taotie. This enigmatic image (seen repeatedly on vessels in the adjacent cases) is not identifiable as any one beast but appears to be a composite of creatures both real and imagined, with two stark eyes, horns, ears, and fangs. During the late Shang period (14th–11th century BCE), animal-shaped vessels began to be cast, perhaps in response to zoomorphic bronzes introduced from southern China. The guang wine vessel displayed here is a magnificent example — it cleverly incorporates a tiger at the front of the vessel and an owl at the back handle; the animals’ heads are represented on the lid and their more subtly rendered bodies are on the vessel.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
- Knife with Pronged Attachment (perhaps for punching leather), Ordos Type
- Weapons and Ammunition
- Work Type
- probably 11th century BCE
- Creation Place: East Asia, China
- Shang dynasty (c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE) to Western Zhou period (c. 1050-771 BCE)
- Persistent Link
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
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- Physical Descriptions
- Cast bronze
- L. 28.5 x W. 5.5 x D. 2.5 cm (11 1/4 x 2 3/16 x 1 in.)
- Grenville L. Winthrop, New York (by 1943), bequest; to Fogg Art Museum, 1943.
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- Asian and Mediterranean Art
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- Exhibition History
S427: Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Jades, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008
32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050
- Subjects and Contexts
Google Art Project
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