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Bonhams in London Hammers Bronze into Gold in Chinese Art Sale Next Month
An important and rare archaic ritual offering vessel, fangzuo gui early Western Zhou Dynasty, Circa BC 1050-900. It features masks, dragons and a rim of silkworms, horned mythical beasts and birds. It is estimated to sell for £500,000 to £800,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A collection of remarkable 3,000-year-old Chinese bronze ritual offering vessels will be among the most important items in Bonhams next sale of fine Chinese Art on May 12th.

Two of these items are estimated to sell for £700,000 to £1,000,000 and £500,000 to £800,000. They have emerged from a little known Canadian collection made by a family which fled the Nazis and spent WWII in China, joining family in Canada after the war. A granddaughter, Mrs E. Sinclair, inherited the collection.

Lot 249 is an important and rare archaic bronze wine vessel and cover, fangyi late Shang Dynasty, Circa BC 1300-1050, cast with mythical beasts and dragons. It is estimated to sell for £700,000 to £1,000,000. Among all bronze vessels produced in early China, the fangyi, a rectangular wine vessel, deserves special attention. It is extremely rare as it was made during a short period (Late Shang –Early Zhou, c. 1300-1000BCE). Almost all fangyi are exquisitely decorated, indicating this was a special object associated with the ruling class of the society.

This bronze fangyi is a double surprise. It is largely unknown, having been hidden away in a Canadian collection for decades, and the quality of the piece is exceptional. An inscription on the vessel can be translated as 'Prince Shu (or Yan) is at Zhi (or Di) to make a sacrificial vessel for the cultured ancestor Father Yi'. An identical inscription is cast on a jue and lid vessel from the Avery Brundage Collectionin the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco which can be traced to a first hald 19th century collector. The identical inscriptions on the Sinclair and Brundage vessels strongly suggest that they originally formed part of the same set and were unearthed prior to 1850.

The second bronze is Lot 250 an important and rare archaic ritual offering vessel, fangzuo gui early Western Zhou Dynasty, Circa BC 1050-900. It features masks, dragons and a rim of silkworms, horned mythical beasts and birds. It is estimated to sell for £500,000 to £800,000.

These two remarkable bronzes were among those collected by Mr J. Goldstein who emigrated in the 1920s from Poland to Canada. He settled in Toronto and had a thriving business trading in fur, designing, cutting and tailoring his own coats. His younger brother, worked with their father in Poland in their very successful large fur store until, in 1939 he fled Poland, was imprisoned in Siberia and ended up in Shanghai where he lived until the end of WWII.

In Shanghai he was exposed to the Chinese culture. Following WWII, members of the family, refugees at the time, were brought to Canada by Mr. Goldstein, including his younger brother. His brother's experience of the Chinese people of Shanghai, influenced his openness to Chinese culture, and could very well have been the root of his interest in Chinese art. Most likely Goldstein acquired the objects presently offered at Bonhams, in the 1960s. Mrs E. Sinclair, a granddaughter, inherited the collection now being sold by Bonhams.

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