The upper section is finely cast in openwork relief and depicts the animal-spirits of the four cardinal directions, also called the 'four auspicious beasts': the Azure Dragon of the East (qinglong), the White Tiger of the West (bai hu), the Vermilion Bird of the South (zhuque), and the Tortoise entwined with a snake symbolizing the Dark Warrior of the North (xuanwu).
An earcup would be placed atop this brazier, its oval form fitting perfectly on top of the four protrusions on the brazier's rim. The main rectangular section is stepped and raised on four crouching humanoid supports, each neatly modeled, and has an openwork grate to the base. A flattened handle at one end curves up to a leaf-shaped terminal.
Provenance: An old private collection in the United Kingdom. Christie's London, 6 July 1983, lot 108, sold for GBP 8,100 or approx. EUR 43,500 (converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing). Michael Michaels, acquired from the above, and thence by descent. Christie's London, 7 November 2017, lot 170. A private collection in the United Kingdom, acquired from the above. A copy of the 1983 Christie's catalog entry for the present lot with a handwritten note from Michael Michaels, confirming the purchase price listed above, accompanies this lot. Michael Michaels (1907-1986) was born in Magdeburg, Germany, fleeing to the United Kingdom in 1933 when the Nazis came to power in Germany. As a young refugee, Michaels worked at a raincoat factory until founding his own tent and camping equipment company in London with his wife Charlotte. With the success of his company, Michaels began to pursue his passion in antiquities, traveling the globe and visiting museums and archeological sites. During his time in London, Michaels spent countless hours in the British Museum, learning from Jessica Rawson and growing his understanding of the history and technology behind different material cultures. He assembled a very large and important collection of Chinese bronzes during his lifetime.
Condition: Superb condition, commensurate with age, with old wear and expected casting irregularities. Signs of weathering and erosion with minor losses, cracks and dents. The rich, naturally grown patina has fine malachite and azurite encrustations overall.
Weight: 725 g
Dimensions: Length 24.2 cm
At the heart of Chinese mythology are the four spiritual creatures, or four celestial emblems, Si Xiang, each of them being most closely associated with a cardinal direction and a color, but also additionally representing other aspects, including a season of the year, an emotion, a virtue, and one of the five Chinese elements. Each has been given its own individual traits, origin story and its reason for being. Depictions of mythological creatures clearly ancestral to the modern set have been found throughout China. Currently, the oldest known depiction was discovered in 1987 in a tomb in Xishuipo, Henan, which has been dated to approximately 5300 BC. In the tomb, labeled M45, mosaics made of clam shells and bones forming images closely resembling the Azure Dragon and White Tiger, respectively, were found.
Compare a closely related bronze brazier with the corresponding earcup, 24 cm long, dated to the Han dynasty, in the Art Institute of Chicago, accession number 1930.362.
Auction result comparison:
Type: Closely related
Auction: Christie's New York, 14 September 2012, lot 1252
Price: USD 11,875 or approx. EUR 14,500 converted and adjusted for inflation at the time of writing
Description: A small bronze openwork brazier, Eastern Han dynasty
Expert remark: Note the closely related form and decoration. Note the size (23 cm).
來源：英國舊私人收藏；倫敦佳士得，1983 年 7 月 6 日，拍品 108，售價 8,100 英鎊或約 43,500 歐元（根據撰寫本文時的通貨膨脹情況進行換算和調整）。Michael Michaels，購於上述拍賣；倫敦佳士得，2017 年 11 月 7 日，拍品 170；英國私人收藏，購自上述拍賣。隨附1983 年佳士得目錄副本，以及Michael Michaels 的手寫註釋，確認了上面列出的購買價格。Michael Michaels（1907-1986）出生於德國馬格德堡，1933 年納粹在德國掌權後逃亡到英國。作為一名年輕的難民，Michaels在一家雨衣工廠工作，直到與妻子Charlotte在倫敦創立了自己的帳篷和露營設備公司。隨著公司的成功，Michaels開始收藏古董、環遊世界並參觀博物館和考古遺址。在倫敦期間，Michaels在大英博物館度過了無數個小時，向Jessica Rawson學習，加深了對不同物質文化背後的歷史和技術的理解。 他一生收藏了大量重要的中國青銅器。
價格：USD 11,875（相當於今日EUR 14,500）
專家評論：請注意非常相近外形和裝飾。請注意尺寸 (23 釐米)。