This container is rounded towards the bottom and features two large handles in the shape of a dragon, with finned ears, swallowing a bird. We are only able to see the bottom of the bird’s wings. In the late Western Zhou Dynasty, some gui, like this piece, were connected with broad plane-parallel pedestals.
The familiar animal decoration, a theme passed down from the Shang Era and used at the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty, was followed in the 9th century by a new vocabulary of geometric motifs in low relief, which stand out from a bare background and are only remotely reminiscent of their zoomorphic origin. Here, wide wavy ribbons delineate large triangles containing purely ornamental elements, the latest metamorphosis of animal masks from the preceding era. The same phenomenon is observed in the neck’s sculpted jig-saw motifs, which are remotely reminiscent of dragons depicted on the necks of objects from this area in earlier times.
© Musée Cernuschi