Eskenazi to host Autumn Exhibition of early Chinese art in London
From 3 to 25 November 2016, Eskenazi Ltd, which is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading galleries for Oriental works of art will present an exhibition of 24 works of early Chinese art at their gallery at 10 Clifford Street, London. Highlighting the creative brilliance of Chinese artisans over a 2,500year period from the late Neolithic era (circa 2000 BC) to the Tang dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD), the exhibition will include a number of highly important pieces in bronze, gold, silver, jade and bone, all sourced from private collections.
The most diverse exhibition of early Chinese art to be held at Eskenazi since 2003, it includes a core of ancient bronze vessels, artworks coveted by collectors since the advent of antiquarian scholarship in the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD). Previous owners of works in the exhibition include renowned collectors from the 19th and 20th centuries, including Luo Zhenyu, Bernard Berenson, Adolphe Stoclet and Lord Cunliffe, with more recent prized provenances of the 21st century including the Sze Yuan Tang and the Al Thani collections. Many of the works have also been included in notable museum exhibitions throughout the 20th century, including at the British Museum and Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, the Stockholm National Museum and the Palazzo Ducale in Venice.
A highlight of the exhibition is a rare archaic bronze wine vessel (zun) from the early Western Zhou period (11th–10th century BC) shown at a famous exhibition of Chinese art at the Palazzo Ducale in Venice in 1954. A magnificent example of a Western Zhou ritual vessel, originally placed on an altar with an ensemble of vessels of other forms, it has an illustrious provenance, already recorded in Chinese literature of the 19th century as in the collection of Pan Zuyin (1830-1890), an important official of the late Qing dynasty, who owned at least 400 archaic bronzes. The interior of this vessel is cast with a seven-character inscription which reads Ya Qi Yi
zuo Mu Xin yi (Ya Qi Yi made this ritual vessel in honour of his mother Xin). A much-published zun of identical form, with different inscription, is in the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The majority of pieces in the exhibition are decorated with animals or animal motifs, including dragons, bears, birds and other beasts, both stylized and naturalistic. Recognisably of animal inspiration, although highly stylized, are the masks and dragons that form the decoration of a different type of wine vessel (you) of the Shang or early Western Zhou period (11th century BC)). Also recorded in the 19th century when owned by the scholar Luo Zhenyu (18661940), it was first photographed and published almost a century ago, in 1917.
Further rare and striking pieces include a gilt-bronze dragon head from the Western Han period (206 BC - 9 AD), recently on loan to the British Museum, thought to have been the terminal of a central shaft of a chariot or carriage; a gilt-bronze bear inlaid with turquoise and agate stones from the Han period (206 BC – 220 AD) one of a set of supports for a bronze vessel or item of furniture; and a jade standing figure, Tang Period (618–907 AD). A more mysterious object in the exhibition is an archaic jade notched disc from the late Neolithic or Shang period (2000–1500 BC), measuring 33cm in diameter. Remarkable for its very large size, this and smaller similar discs have prompted much speculation as to their function although no consensus has yet been reached.
Archaic Bronze Wine Vessel; Early Western Zhou period, 11th-10th century BC
Archaic Bronze Wine Vessel and Cover; Shang or Early Western Zhou period, 11th-10th century BC
Gilt-Bronze Agate and Turquoise Bear; Han period, 206 BC – 220 AD
Gilt-bronze Dragon Head Terminal; Western Han period. 206 BC to 9 AD
Jade Standing Figure; Tang period, 618-907
Archaic Jade Notched Disc; Late Neolithic, Shang period; 2000-1500 BC