VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Ritual bucket (you) with the handle held by frogs
13067-16116 MNAOr
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

Although reassembled from large fragments by means of soft soldering (as seen through X-ray analysis), antiquarially concealed by artificial verdigris, its surface retains the silvery metallic luster which it originally displayed. What makes this artifact an authentic masterpiece is, however, the perfect shape of the body which seems to be the “translation” of a bucket made by organic materials – i.e., a base of wood; a body of leather-skin; a handle made by a rope into a much harder metallic object without losing lightness of volume, boldness of profile, and a sense of simple and immediate practicalness. The two little frogs –possibly related to the watery underworld in Shang myths- “climbing” the rope-shaped handle, balance, in their very naturalistic rendering, the fantastic, almost “abstract”, conception of the gui dragons flowing inside the two bands underlying the rim and the foot. As such, the vessel fully represents and transmits the genius and the technical skill of the anonymous Shang bronze-smiths.

History of the Object
The vessel has probably been excavated by clandestine diggers in the Anyang region in the early XX c. and soon after put on the antiquarian market. According to a card in the box containing the vessel, handwritten by Mrs. Margherita Taliani, her husband acquired it in Beijing at an antiquity shop whose owner was Mr. Huang. The object attracted the attention of the specialists when it was already the property of the Ambassador and was first published by a Chinese scholar in 1942 (Huang Jun, Yezhong pianyu san ji, Beijing, 1942: 1.31). Later on, eminent scholars of early Chinese ritual bronzes quoted the vessel, i.e., Max Loehr. Hayashi Minao, and Robert W. Bagley. Only many years after Mr. Taliani passed away, his widow, already in her late eighties, decided to sell to the Italian state the entire lot of archaic Chinese bronzes (vessels, horse and chariot fittings, and weapons) included in the Collection.

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Type
Other 
Materials
Ternary bronze alloy -copper (AAS 78,19% ca.), tin (AAS 13,04% ca.) and lead (AAS 7,52% ca)- cast into piece-mould; handle joined to the body by casting-on. Patina: Silvery grey with green patches of artificial patination. 
Measurements
Width Base diameter: 16,5 cm Height 23 cm  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Unknown foundry, probably in the area of Xiaotun (Anyang, Henan prov.). 
Geography
China 
Time period
BCE 13th century ~ BCE 10th century 
Creation date
13th Century B.C.E.;Shang Dynasty, Anyang period (ca. 1300-1050 B.C.E.): 
Function
Vessel suitable to hold and carry liquids for ritual use, possibly the “wine” (obtained from fermented cereals) drunk during ceremonies of ancestral worshipping performed by the Shang aristocrats. 
Acquisition
In 1988 the National Museum of Oriental Art on behalf of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities acquired the vessel from the late Mrs. Margherita Taliani di Marchio Asburgo-Lorena, widow of the Marquis Corrado Taliani di Marchio, Italian Ambassador in Beijing in the last century in the late 30s until the beginning of the 40s. 
Copyright
“Giuseppe Tucci” National Museum of Oriental Art 
Acknowledgements
Text: Roberto Ciarla 
Owner
Giuseppe Tucci National Museum of Oriental Art 
Museum
Virtual Museum of the Chinese masterpieces 
Credit line
 

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