Shang dynasty bronze ram headlines Chinese art sale

A unique Chinese Shang dynasty bronze ram looks set to make $6m-8m at Christie’s.

The stunning piece dates to the Shang dynasty (1600-1046 BC) and would have been used to hold wine.

Vessels like this one were used to honour the dead.

Chinese bronze ram

The bronze ram dates back to the Shang dynasty 

They held ritual offerings and were placed in temples, shrines and grave sites in huge numbers.

The authority to make the bronzes came directly from the ruler and there was a strict hierarchy in the amount allocated to each member of the nobility.  

The lot will headline Christie’s Important Chinese Art from the Fujita Museum sale in New York on March 15.

The bronze is almost unmatched in terms of quality, as Christie’s expert Vasiliki Paloympis explained. “Only a handful of comparable pieces are known to exist, although none are rams that are this elaborate, or in such good condition," she said.

“It’s likely that this vessel was used during ritual offerings to the ancestors to appease the spirits, and thus to gain good fortune.

“As a specialist, I’ve handled a lot of Chinese bronze, but this example really stands out.

“It’s just 22cm [8⅝ in] long, but it has an incredible presence — a buyer isn’t ever likely to find a piece as good as this on the market.”

Quality Shang bronzes are in high demand, regularly selling for millions of dollars apiece.

The unusual nature of this piece could see it soar past its $8m high estimate.

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