3,000-year-old Chinese bronze wine containers expected to fetch £2m at auction

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They say fine wine improves with age, but 3,000 years may be pushing it a little. Although it certainly isn’t hurting the value of two ancient bottles which have been valued at a staggering £2million. 

The 3,000-year-old Chinese bronze containers of the aging tipple were acquired by two Jewish brothers who fled Poland at the start of World War Two, with one of them seeking sanctuary in Shanghai.

The Chinese bronze containers of the aging tipple were acquired by two Jewish brothers who fled Poland at the start of World War Two, with one of them seeking sanctuary in Shanghai. 

Having been exposed to the Chinese culture, he was re-united with his brother after the war and the pair started delving into the oriental art market. 

The brothers realised the importance of the ritual vessels when they came onto the market in the 1960s and paid £1,000 each for them. 

They have since been passed down to the granddaughter of one of the men, known only as Mr J. Goldstein. 

She has now made them available for sale at auction in London, a move that has stunned the art world as their existance has been largely unknown of because they have been in the family’s private collection for decades. 

They are being tipped to sell for a whopping £1million and £800,000 respectively. 

One of them, a rectangular fangyi vessel, dates back to the Chinese Shang dynasty between 1300 to 1050BC

It is exquisitely decorated, indicating it was a special object associated with the ruling class of the society and experts have described the quality as ‘quite exceptional’. 

It has an inscription on it that is translated into ‘Prince Shu is at Zhi to make a sacrificial vessel for the cultured ancestor Father Yi’. 

An identical inscription is cast on a jue goblet at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco which would suggest the two pieces once formed part of the same set that was unearthed before 1850. 

The second bronze vessel dates back to the early Western Zhou dynasty between 1050 to 900BC. 

The ancient wine casks are being tipped to sell for a whopping £1million and £800,000 respectively. One of them, a rectangular fangyi vessel, dates back to the Chinese Shang dynasty between 1300 to 1050BC.

It features masks, dragons and a rim of silkworms, horned mythical beasts and birds. 

It is thought this had been taken out of China in the 1920s or 1930s by western missionary families. 

They were bought in Canada, where the family lives, and are both being sold by auctioneers Bonhams. 

Asaph Hyman, senior specialist in Chinese art at Bonhams, said: ‘These two remarkable bronze pieces were among those collected by Mr J. Goldstein who emigrated in the from Poland to Canada. 

‘His younger brother fled Poland in 1939, was temporarily imprisoned in Siberia, but ended up in Shanghai where he lived until the end of the war. 

‘In Shanghai he was exposed to the Chinese culture. 

‘His survival, due to the goodness of the Chinese, influenced his openness to Chinese culture and could very well have been the root of his interest in Chinese art. 

‘After the war, members of the family were brought by Mr Goldstein to Canada, including his younger brother who brought with him his interest in Chinese art and that rubbed off on his sibling. 

‘With the creation of the rail roads in China in the 19th century, many archaeological sites were excavated and that’s how many of these pieces came to light.’ 

The auction takes place on May 12. 

Source: Daily Mail/UK [April 15, 2011]

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