North central China
Bronze; H. 10 in. (25.4 cm)
Bequest of Addie W. Kahn, 1949 (49.135.9 a)
The arched shape of this container is an obvious exception to the symmetrical forms of other early Chinese bronze vessels, and reflects an understanding of the art and culture of China's northern neighbors. It is one of the earliest of a group of similarly shaped vessels, produced from the late eighth to the early fifth century B.C., that are based on wine or milk containers made from animal skins and worn across the shoulder or suspended from the waist. The decoration of the base of this flask, which resembles a woven design, derives from the use of rope or fabric strands to support the nonmetallic vessels. Traces of a bar handle, used to anchor a linked chain also suspended at the neck, are found at the bottom of the vessel. The surface decoration, which consists of flat, petal-shaped bands set against a background of dense angular spirals, is typical of Chinese art of the period.