As the Shang animal mask lost its symbolic meaning under the Zhou, it dissolved into an ornamental pattern, as here, where an “eye” is encircled by curving hooked lines.
Among the most important bronzes in the Museum’s collection is a pair of Western Zhou ritual wine containers (hu). Monumental in scale and gracefully proportioned, the vessels (1988.20.4a, b and .5a, b) have flattened pear-shaped bodies with flaring feet and substantial lids that, when inverted, might serve as imposing serving dishes. Their elegant silhouettes, supplanting the more architectonic form of Shang vessels, are complemented by eight rounded relief figures enclosed within broad raised bands. Each of the figures possesses an ornamental pattern consisting of hooked lines enclosing an ‘eye’ motif—a playful transformation of the ubiquitous taotie masks of earlier periods.
[Zhixin Jason Sun, Ancient Chinese Bronzes in the Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Orientations, March 2015]
Inscription: A single character ("Wei") is cast on the outer face of the lid.
Charlotte C. and John C. Weber , New York, 1988; donated to MMA
New York. China Institute in America. "Chinese Bronze Technology," April 20, 1991–June 15, 1991.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Arts of Ancient China," 2005.