Important collection of Chinese Archaic Bronzes to auction at Christie's

Today, New York will play host to the latest installment of Christie's Asian Art week with the sale of the Anthony Hardy collection of Sze Yuan Tang Archaic Bronzes.

Around 120 lots will auction with a total value in excess of $15 million.

The Anthony Hardy collection has been personally amassed by the collector for over 40 years and features numerous important examples of Chinese archaic bronze vessels.

Many of these Sze Yuan Tang bronze vessels date back to the 13th-12th centuries BC, otherwise known as the Golden Age of the Shang dynasty. 

This was the period when some of the finest and most sophisticated Chinese bronzes ever were created. 

These collectible artefacts were most commonly used by the Shang ruling class for ritual offerings of food and wine to invoke the aid of ancestral spirits.  

The "Li" Bronze cooking vessel

One prospective highlight of the sale is expected to be the striking bronze "Li", which was used as a ritual tripod vessel for cooking grains and meat back in the late Shang dynasty in the 12th century BC.

The relic is cast with three "Taotie" animal masks, each formed by a pair of confronting zoomorphic creatures, and features an animal mask with formidable horns and sharply angled eyes.

This unique piece carries a pre-auction estimated price of $700,000 - 900,000 ($450,000 - 580,000).

In addition to this, the auction will feature a large bronze ritual wine vessel or "Zun", from the late Shang dynasty, Anyang period which dates back to 13th century BC and could prove popular with potential investors.

The collectible artefact also features "Taotie" animal masks which adorn the wide bands that encircle the tall splayed foot and mid section of the bronze.

The canted shoulder of the vessel is cast in high relief with three bovine masks featuring ram-style horns.  Upright blades are also cast with patterns which encircle the wide trumpet shaped mouth of the Chinese piece.

"Zun" vessels like this from the Shang and Western Zhou dynasties of 1100-771 BC were used to carry rice and wines flavoured with herbs. This particular example has been set a target price of $400,000 - 700,000 ($260,000 - 450,000).

The Fangyi Wine vessel and cover

However, arguably the most significant Bronze at today's sale is another important archaic wine vessel and cover known as a "Fangyi."

This piece comes from the late Shang dynasty of the Anyang period in Chinese history, which dates it to the 12th-11th century BC.

The ritual vessel includes prominent hooked flanges and motifs which are displayed within the compartment of the container.

The familiar "Taotie" animals feature on both the cover and body of the piece.

An inscription can also be found on both the vessel and its cover which provide the clan names of those who made the relic along with those it was dedicated to.

This important bronze piece has been published and exhibited extensively since the 19th century.

Today's sale is a rare opportunity for one collector to make a substantial investment in a unique piece of Chinese culture.

The collectible relic expected to be the star lot at today's event and carries a pre-auction estimated price of £771,500 - 1,156,000 ($1,200,000 - 1,800,000.)

With these bronze artefacts set to sell alongside over 100 other investment grade lots, the sale could provide a memorable day in Christie's Asian Art week.


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