A bronze pole finial Shang Dynasty

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Lot 281
A bronze pole finial
Shang Dynasty

Sold for £ 3,500 (US$ 4,508) inc. premium

Asian Art

9 May 2016, 10:30 BST

London, Knightsbridge

The Professor R. Beaver Collection of Early Chinese Bronzes and Japanese Sword Fittings
The Professor R. Beaver Collection of Early Chinese Bronzes and Japanese Sword Fittings
Lots 278-297.

My interest in Chinese art and culture was first stimulated as a student at Oxford, but at that time it was a side interest to my biological studies. The idea that one could do more than read books, look at images, or visit museums, only crystallised some years later when Peter Plesch (better known as a collector of ancient glass) showed me some items in his collection, and suggested that even if the larger ancient bronzes were beyond my means, it would still be possible to collect small pieces at reasonable prices. He also noted the abundance of animal portrayals and motifs on ancient bronzes – a feature that appealed to me as a zoologist – and he gave me an introduction to Bluett and Sons in Davies Street in London. There I met Roger Bluett and Brian Morgan, and it was the latter who guided most of my purchases through almost twenty years. His combination of great knowledge and good taste served me well.

During this time I was working at various overseas universities, but I received auction catalogues by post, sometimes in time for me to suggest possible purchases, and sometimes in time for him to bid for me at sales. Other purchases were made directly from Bluett's "stock" when I called in on UK leave. As you will see from the lots in the sale, there is always an animal connection of some kind. The Chinese menagerie includes snakes, birds, mules, boar, rams, lions, a tiger, a rhinoceros and a gibbon, as well as more mythical animals such as dragons and tao tie. Amongst the Japanese lots you can find dragonflies, a grasshopper, a praying mantis, carp and a bat. When Bluett's closed down, and I retired, I decided not to continue adding to the collection, so what you see is the collection as it was in 1990.
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A bronze pole finial
Shang Dynasty
Cast in the form of a twin-horned mythical beast, with short protruding ears, each side cast with an animal mask, set on a tapering cylindrical stem, the horns and stem with scrollwork designs in low relief, fabric remnants adhered to the surface, the bronze of reddish brown patination, verdigris encrustation.
10cm (4in) long.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    The Cunliffe Collection
    Purchased Bluett & Sons Ltd. 25 March 1985.

    Exhibited
    'Early Chinese Art from the Cunliffe Collection', Bluett & Sons, 1973, no. 8.

    For a comparable finial, dated to the Shang Dynasty, see 'Bronze Articles for Daily Use', 'The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum', no. 6, p.8. Another, in The Frederick M. Mayer Collection of Chinese Art, Christie's, London, 25 June 1974, no. 221. Another in The British Museum, Seligman Bequest, OA 1973.7-26.16.
Contacts
A bronze pole finial Shang Dynasty
A bronze pole finial Shang Dynasty
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