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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
1943.52.103
Title
'Guang' Covered Ritual Wine Vessel with Tiger and Owl Decor
Other Titles
Original Language Title: 觥
Alternate Title: 'gong'
Classification
Vessels
Work Type
vessel
Date
13th century BCE
Places
Creation Place: East Asia, China
Period
Shang dynasty, c. 1600-c. 1050 BCE
Culture
Chinese
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/303630
Location
Level 1, Room 1740, Early Chinese Art, Arts of Ancient China from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Medium
Cast bronze with pale green patina
Dimensions
H. 25.0 x W. 31.5 x D. 10.6 cm (9 13/16 x 12 3/8 x 4 3/16 in.)
Weight 1020.58 g
Inscriptions and Marks
  • inscription: two ideographs cast on vessel floor
Provenance
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
1943
Object Number
1943.52.103
Division
Asian and Mediterranean Art
Contact
am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Dorothy W. Gillerman, ed., Grenville L. Winthrop: Retrospective for a Collector, exh. cat., Fogg Art Museum (Cambridge, 1969), no. 035, pp. 30-31

Takayasu Higuchi, ed., Chugoku bijutsu, dai 4-kan (Chinese Art in Western Collections vol. 4: Bronze and Jade), Kodansha (Tokyo, Japan, 1973), pl. 24

Chen Mengjia, Yin Zhou qingtongqi fenlei tulu (A corpus of Chinese bronzes in American Collections), Kyuko Shoin (Tokyo, Japan, 1977), A 651

Yumiko Suefusa, "In Shū seidō iki no bi—jikō no kikei to sōshoku" ["Yin and Chou Bronzes with Special Reference to Ssü-kuang Type Receptacles"], Kobijutsu, No. 55, pp. 29-61, March 1978, no. 2

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 5, p. 15

Robert W. Bagley, Shang Ritual Bronzes in the Arthur M. Sackler Collections, Arthur M. Sackler Foundation and Arthur M. Sackler Museum (Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, Mass., 1987), p. 113, fig. 150; p. 370, fig. 63.2; p. 414, fig. 73.2

James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 52-53

Harvard University Art Museums, Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Stephan Wolohojian and Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Harvard Art Museum/ Handbook, ed. Stephan Wolohojian, Harvard Art Museum (Cambridge, 2008), p. 3

Daniel Shapiro and Robert D. Mowry, Ancient Chinese Bronzes: a Personal Appreciation, Sylph Editions (London, 2013), pp. 119, 120, fig. 2.

Exhibition History

S427: Ancient Chinese Bronzes and Jades, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 1740 Early China I, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Collection Highlights

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at am_asianmediterranean@harvard.edu