As the consignments start to roll in for the annual Asia Week New York (March 14-22), Sotheby’s has announced that the spectacular highlight of its sales will be…
It’s a rather fine kind of an owl, cast from bronze and designed for use as a wine vessel. Yet, next to the glittering jewels and spectacular artworks offered during the week, it does look a little shabby…
$4m worth of shabby, apparently.
At first, you might dismiss the piece – it’s nice, but perhaps not the most coveted item on your list. However, dig a little deeper and this wise bird begins to reveal its secrets.
The key to the owl’s value is its age; this vessel was created during China’s Zhou dynasty. For those of us that aren’t well versed in ancient Chinese history, that’s the 8th-7th centuries BC.
Yes, that’s right…BC.
600-700 years before Jesus Christ was supposedly born.
To give that date some context, this was a time when the Assyrian Empire dominated Babylon and Egypt, while Nebuchadnezzar was busy building the famous Hanging Gardens.
Meanwhile, my forebears were presumably still mucking about in caves in England, making rudimentary weapons to destroy their enemies.
China was light years ahead, with the country under the grip of the longest dynasty in its history, while their political and culture was already developed enough to draw comparisons with medieval England.
Just some food for thought before you dismiss this unassuming owl…it’s amazing that the piece has even survived the tests of time, let alone made it to auction in fantastic condition.
Learn more about its fascinating provenance.