VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Elephant shaped zun
EO 1545
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

The zun is a ritual wine vessel usually in the style of a calice-shaped cup. Some, however, like the Guimet’s, are animal-shaped. They were used to pay homage to the sky, an imperial rite by which the ruler prayed for the harmonious running order of the universe. Its size is exceptional in spite of the broken trunk and disappearance of the lid which covered the elephant’s back oval aperture. Both the animal’s flanks show the design of a slightly ribbon-raised taotie, unusually large, while the whole body shows simplified dragon designs standing out against a leiwen background. Though numerous zun are known all over the world and especially in China, there is none so tall and bulky. Furthermore, the characteristic unconventional design clearly tells its southern origin only matched by the ones found on the bronze drum from the Sumitomo collection and double ram zun in the Nezu Museum in Japan.

History of the Object
The zun was acquired by Count Isaac de Camondo (1851-1911 at the Paul Brenot’s auction sale held in Hôtel Drouot in Paris, June, 1903. Count Isaac de Camondo bequeathed his stupendous collection contingent to usufruct to the French State on behalf of the Louvre museum first in 1877, next in 1903 and lastly in 1906. The zun was part of the second bequest. It became State property in 1911. It was then sent to the Guimet Museum in 1945 when the Louvre determined to part with its Asian collections and transfer them to our museum in an exchange.

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Type
Other 
Materials
Bronze 
Measurements
Width 34 cm. Height 64 cm. Length 96 cm.  
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China; Southern China 
Geography
China 
Time period
BCE 11th century ~ BCE 10th century 
Creation date
BC; 1100 - 1050 BC.; Shang Dynasty; Yin Period 
Function
Wine container 
Acquisition
Demise of the Asian Arts collections from the Louvre to the Guimet Museum in 1945. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
State property, France. 
Museum
Musée National des arts asiatiques Guimet 
Credit line
 

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