More than a Game / A RARE BRONZE 'TADPOLES' ARROW VASE, TOUHU Song/Yuan Dynasty
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A RARE BRONZE 'TADPOLES' ARROW VASE, TOUHU
Crisply cast rising from a spreading foot to a waisted neck flanked by a pair of tubular handles incised with key-fret design, the neck with archaistic geometrical pattern and similarly decorated on the compressed globular body divided by four projecting flanges, below a band of swimming tadpoles among waves on the shoulder, the foot with pendent leaf-lappets. 37.2cm (14 5/8in) high, 5.2kg.
The Brian Harkins Collection
Depicting motifs using low-relief slender lines was usually seen on early bronze mirrors, such as Han dynasty examples. Compare a bronze mirror with its raised-band motifs, Eastern Han dynasty, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji (Complete Collection of Chinese Bronzes), Beijing, 1998, vol.16, pl.68. During the Song to Yuan dynasties, such outlined decoration can be seen on bronze basins. Compare with several related bronze basins, Song or Xixia dynasty, in the Cernuschi Museum, Paris, illustrated by M.Maucuer, Bronzes de la Chine Impériale des Song aux Qing, Paris, 2013, pl.93-96. Interestingly, the author noted that the two basins, pls.94 and 95, are works of Xixia dynasty, which might suggest the present lot's unusual design was influenced from Northwest China.
Geometrical stylised taotie masks are rather rare; compare however with a related bronze vase, Yuan dynasty, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, illustrated by R.Kerr, Later Chinese Bronzes, London, 1990, p.46, pl.36.
The unusual decoration of tadpoles may represent the auspicious wish for many offspring, as well as possibly a rebus, with the similarity in sound of tadpole 蝌蚪 kedou, and 科舉 keju referring to the Imperial Examinations, hence also representing the wish for the offspring to have success in the Imperial Examinations.
此壺紋飾特別，以陽線勾勒饕餮紋，線條曲折成抽象幾何形狀，而整體可辨為饕餮。此類陽文細線勾勒常出現在漢代銅鏡，立件銅器身上十分少見。參考北京故宮藏一件東漢羽人禽獸博局紋鏡之細線陽文紋飾，見《中國青銅器全集》，北京，1998年，卷16，圖版68。宋元時期，裝飾此類細線陽紋銅器似乎只見於銅盆，參考數件巴黎賽奴奇亞洲博物館藏宋代及西夏銅盆，其紋飾便如此件皆以細線陽紋勾勒，見M.Maucuer著，《Bronzes de la Chine Impérialedes Song aux Qing》，巴黎，2013年，圖版93-96。館方將圖版94及95銅盆定為西夏，或可解釋本件投壺紋飾的獨特之處。
變體幾何形饕餮紋亦頗為少見，可參考英國維多利亞及艾伯特博物館藏一件元代銅壺所飾幾何紋，見柯玫瑰著，《Later Chinese Bronzes》，倫敦，1990年，頁49，圖版36。