Chinese Bronze Wine Vessel, ca. 1100 BC

Value (2012) | $10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
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GUEST:
It's something from my aunt. And it's a rather strange-looking object to some of my family members, and they did not want it.

APPRAISER:
And when did your aunt get this?

GUEST:
I suspect she went to New York City. She lived in Houston and went somewhere in the late '50s, early '60s.

APPRAISER:
You're absolutely correct that this is an odd-looking object.

GUEST:
Yes.

APPRAISER:
And it's got these three long legs that have very sharp interior edges, almost blade-like. And it also has this pouring spout at one end, and it's got these... little post here at the top with finials, and then this kind of pointed edge at the other side. So you wonder, "What was this for?" Well, it was actually a pouring vessel made in China roughly 1,100 B.C.

GUEST:
Whoa!

APPRAISER:
It's a wine vessel, and it was meant to have heated wine. And that's why it's on the tall legs, so the wine would be heated. And then you would actually hold the vessel here by these little posts, because it would be hot and it would be not something that you could hold. And then it would pour out of the spout. There's a lot of decorative elements and a lot of skill, craftsmanship, a lot of time went into the process to create this. This was something of importance; it was something that not a normal person would have had.

GUEST:
Right.

APPRAISER:
Someone who would have had money and influence. So this was actually created in a mold. It's made of bronze, and the mold itself would have been created from a model that would have been carved in clay.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And if we look at the front, you'll see that there's this kind of ridge that goes down the center that divides this into two sections. And on one section of the ridge you have this design on this side, and it's also matched by another, which is actually an eye. And this forms kind of a rudimentary face. So imagine this is the line down the nose…

GUEST:
All right.

APPRAISER:
…Of a face. You have one eye here, you have an eye over here. You have kind of hooks here for horns at the top.

GUEST:
All right.

APPRAISER:
This is a water buffalo with a big set of horns. And underneath the water buffalo, right back here, which is hard to see, is what's called a pictogram, and that is a mark that would have been put on this by the people who cast this vessel. And in addition to all this, one of the reasons that we know this is authentic is the kind of bright green to dark green color, which is a result of the oxidation of the metal with the acids in the soil. This was buried, it's part of a tomb.

GUEST:
Okay.

APPRAISER:
And it would have been part of a cache of other kinds of ritual vessels and items that would have been emblematic of the wealth of the person who owned it that he had wanted or she had wanted to take to the next world. Really a nice version, and we don't run across ancient ritual Chinese bronze wine vessels very often. So what do you think this thing's worth?

GUEST:
I have no idea. I'm not familiar with Chinese archaic vessels.

APPRAISER:
I think at auction today, a conservative estimate would be in the $10,000 to $15,000 range.

GUEST:
I'm going to be hearing from my cousins, I'm sure. Thank you, sir.

Appraisal Details

Appraiser
Lark Mason Associates
New York, NY
Appraised value (2012)
$10,000 Auction$15,000 Auction
Event
Corpus Christi, TX (August 04, 2012)
Form
Vessel
Material
Bronze

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