The Moment - Feb 22, 2020

Bronze Age Treasures: Early Design Awaits Contemporary Collectors

  • NEW YORK , New York
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  • June 05, 2018

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Warring States bronze Ding. Gianguan Auctions, June 9th.

A collection of Neolithic and Bronze Age ritual items, relics from the origins of human technology, await bidders on June 9th at Gianguan Auctions. 

As humankind moved out of the Stone Age, embarking on the great agricultural movement, tools were new, smelting was something of a phenomonen, and cratsmen became designers. All this can be seen to varying degrees in both simple and complex pieces that have survived.

Gianguan’s catalog cover lot is a gilt bronze tripod food vessel with cover, also known as a Ding. Of the Warring States peiod(475 - 221 B.C.), the heavily cast, globular shaped vessel sits  on cabriole legs. The lower body bears cicada-filled blades in relief below a band of dragon masks.  Upright bail handles rise from the rim. The domed cover is surmounted by three ring knops. 

Also from that fuedal age is a small sloping pouring vessel with a powerful silhouette. Set on an inclined  body, the elongated cover culminates in the head of a horned buffalo. Taotie masks and mythical beasts prevail in the incising as in the handle which has the shape of a beast. 15.24 cm high (about 6 inches tall). 

Exhibiting the diversity of the Warring States imagination is a rare bronze ritual censer with cover, known as a Dou. Standing on a tall pedestal that rises into three animal form trestles, the decoration is of mythical beasts. The crown is cast in open work and has a ring finial. The patina is milky green with areas of malachite and azurite encrustation. 

Crystal Bixie. Gianguan Auctions, June 9th.

Go back a few centuries to the Western Zhou (11th c.-771 BC) and a pitcher with a  powerful silhouette lives on as a reminder of that creativity is a human imperative. Set on a sloping body atop a rectangular base, an elongated cover culminates in the head of a horned buffalo. Taotie masks and mythical beasts prevail in the incising as in the handle which has the shape of a mythical beast. 

As mythical beasts dominated the cosmos, artisans interpreted them, as in the Crystal Bixie shown as a crouching beast. With legs tucked under and tail flicked to the side, the horned head looks back over the shoulder. The smoothly polished crystal is of a dark emerald tone with semi-clear translucence. The stone may have been imported from Persia. 

Also in this group are a silver and gold inlaid flask and a pear shaped vessel with arched twisted rope handle, 

Evolving from currency to adornments and home items, carved jades make a strong showing beginning as early as  Neolithic properties. Among these, a russet jade ritual blade, thick and flared with a hole in one end is decorated on both sides with an anthropomorphic face. 

For complete details on the Neolithic and Bronze Age items in Gianguan Auctions' June 9 sale, please visit

To see these items up close, visit the live preview that continues through Friday, June 8.  Gianguan Auctions is located at 39 W. 56th Street, New York City. 

Early bronze tripod censer. Gianguan Auctions, June 9th.

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