Christie’s Chinese ceramics and works of art specialists explain what to look for when building a collection of Chinese archaic bronzes
1. Familiarise yourself with the different forms
Made in sets to furnish the tombs of China’s elite, Chinese archaic ritual bronzes were used to hold offerings of food and drink to the ancestors of the past. They were produced in huge quantities in a range of shapes, each of which has a specific name. When looking to build a diverse collection, it is important to familiarise oneself with the names of the different forms. Some of the more popular archaic bronze forms include:
Gong: A ritual wine vessel with cover (above), often characterised as metamorphic forms of animals.
Fangyi: A ritual wine vessel (above) with tapering body of rectangular section and a roof-shaped cover.
You: A ritual wine vessel (above) with a stout oval body and an overhead handle, usually with a cover.
Zun: Another ritual wine vessel, flared and with a bulbous mid-section (above).
Gu: Also a ritual wine vessel, similar to the zun but with a slender silhouette (as above).
Jue: One of the more striking vessels (above) of the archaic ritual bronze assembly — another ritual wine vessel, with a prominent spout, whorl-capped posts, flared tail and long tripod legs...........................