Ritual grain server (gui) with square base and masks, dragons, and birds

Ceremonial vessel, type “kuei.”
Thin, scattered malachite and cuprite patination inside and out. Inscription of eleven characters inside.

… Read More

Historical period(s)
Early Western Zhou dynasty, ca. late 11th-early 10th century BCE
H x W x D: 28.1 x 34 x 24.4 cm (11 1/16 x 13 3/8 x 9 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Vessel

Ritual vessel: gui

China, Western Zhou dynasty (ca. 1050 - 771 BCE)

From at least 1935
Otto Burchard & Co., Berlin, from at least 1935 [1]

Sale, Berlin, Paul Graupe, Die Bestände der Firma Dr. Otto Burchard & Co., Berlin, in Liquidation: Chinesische Kunst: I. Teil, March 22, 1935, lot 275, pl. 26 [2]

From 1935 to probably 1937
Hans Georg Oeder (died 1937), Priemern, Altmark, Germany, purchased on his behalf by Arthur Abt at Graupe's sale, March 22, 1935 [3]

From 1937
C. T. Loo & Company, Paris and New York from at least November 1937 [4]

From 1938
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from C. T. Loo & Company, New York on December 29, 1938 [5]


[1] See Paul Graupe, Berlin, Die Bestände der Firma Dr. Otto Burchard & Co., Berlin in Liquidation: Chinesische Kunst: I. Teil, sale cat. (Berlin: Paul Graupe, March 22-23, 1935), p. 39, lot 275, pl. 26. Dr. Otto Burchard & Co., a gallery devoted to Chinese art, was founded by Otto Burchard (1892-1965) in Berlin in 1927 as a part of the Margraf Concern, an art trade firm based in Berlin. In 1929, the Margraf Concern was acquired by Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer. See Patrizia Jirka-Schmitz, "Otto Burchard (1892-1965), Von Finanz-Dada zum Grandseigneur des Pekinger Kunsthandels," Mitteilungen Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ostasiatische Kunst 12, 2 (July 1995), p. 28, note 24.

[2] The sale was one of a series of three auctions during January through April 1935, in which the Margraf Concern, property of Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer, was liquidated. See also Klaus Schrenk, "Das Gemälde 'Bildnis der Marchesa Veronica Spinola Doria' von Peter Paul Rubens und die Chronologie einer Rückforderung," in Beiträge öffentlicher Einrichtungen des Bundesrepublik Deutschland zum Umgang mit Kulturgütern aus ehemaligen jüdischen Besitz, ed. Ulf Häder (Magdeburg: Veröffentlichungen der Koordinierungsstelle für Kulturgutverluste, 2001), pp. 150-59 and Esther Tisa Francini, Anja Heuss, and Georg Kreis, Flucht - Raubgut: Der Transfer von Kulturgütern in und über die Schweiz 1933-1945 und die Frage der Restitution (Zurich: Chronos, 2001), p. 42. For more information on the fate of Jakob and Rosa Oppenheimer see http://www.lostart.de/nn_41804/Webs/DE/Provenienz/JuedischeSammler/Eintrag,lv2=60580,lv3=63116.html.

[3] According to Patrizia Jirka-Schmitz, "Otto Burchard (1892-1965), Von Finanz-Dada zum Grandseigneur des Pekinger Kunsthandels," Mitteilungen Deutsche Gesellschaft fĂĽr Ostasiatische Kunst 12, 2 (July 1995), pp. 32-33. See also Bernhard Karlgren, "Yin and Chou in Chinese Bronzes," in Yin and Chou Researches (Stockholm: The Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1935), p. 84, E40, pl. XII, where the vessel is listed as in "Oeder Collection."

[4] See Loo's stockcard no. LAP 5901: "Bronze incense-burner on a square stand, 6th cent. B.C.," C. T. Loo & Frank Caro Archive, Musée Guimet, Paris, copy in object file. According to annotations on the stockcard, the vessel arrived in New York on the S.S. Normandie with Loo in November 1937 and was brought to the Freer Gallery for approval in December 1937. It appears on C. T. Loo's Approval List, dated December 2, 1937, listed under no. LAP 5901 as "Large bronze Yu with square base," copy in object file.

[5] See C. T. Loo's invoice, issued by the New York gallery, dated December 29, 1938, copy in object file. The object is listed in the invoice as "Bronze sacral vessel of the type tui. Chinese, Chou." Loo stated at the time of the purchase that he had acquired the vessel in China, see John E. Lodge's curatorial remark, 1939, in object file. Lodge noted that Loo "said that he had got it [the vessel] in China and this could be true. In 1935, however, Karlgren published … an inscribed kuei belonging to Rittergutsbesitzer H. G. Oeder (of Priemern, Seehausen, Altmark, Germany) which, as nearly as I can tell from the reproduction, is almost certainly this one,--- my only serious doubt, indeed, arising from the negative evidence of Karlgren's failure to read the second character in the inscription." In July 2000, the Freer Gallery of Art received a claim asserting that the heirs of Rosa and Jakob Oppenheimer were the rightful owners of the vessel. With the cooperation and assistance of the family, the Smithsonian researched the history of the vessel and discovered that it had been sold in the auction in Berlin in 1935. In November 2002, the Oppenheimer heirs and the Smithsonian Institution reached an agreement regarding the ownership of the vessel by which it remains in the museum collection.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Otto Burchard & Co.
Mr. Hans Georg Oeder died 1937
C.T. Loo & Company 1914-1948


Ceremonial vessel, type "kuei."
Thin, scattered malachite and cuprite patination inside and out. Inscription of eleven characters inside.


Inscription of eleven characters inside.

Published References
  • The Dealer and the Museum: C.T. Loo (1880-1957), the Freer Gallery of Art, and the American Asian Market in the 1930s and 1940s. .
  • Smithsonian Institution. Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, 1939. Washington, 1939-1940. pl. 1, top.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. vol. 1: pls. 4, 6.
  • Shang Chou chin wen shi ch'eng. Multi-volume, Taipei. cat. 2564.
  • Bernhard Karlgren. Some New Bronzes in the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities. no. 24 Stockholm. fig. 55.
  • Keng Jung, Chang Wei. Yin Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i t'ung lun [A Survey of Shang-Chou Bronzes]. Peking. cat. 50.
  • Eleanor von Erdberg Consten. Kunst und Religion in Indien, China, und Japan. Geisteswissenschaften Heft 120 Cologne. pl. 1.
  • Chin wen tsung chi. Taipei. vol. 3: p. 1238.
  • Chen Mengjia. Yin Zhou qing tong qi fen lei tu lu [Yin-Chou ch'ing t'ung ch'i fen lei t'u lu]. 2 vols., Dongjing. vol. 2: A 221.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 3.
  • Compiled by the staff of the Freer Gallery of Art. A Descriptive and Illustrative Catalogue of Chinese Bronzes: Acquired During the Administration of John Ellerton Lodge. Oriental Studies Series, no. 3 Washington, 1946. pp. 5-7, 40-41, pls. 19-20.
  • S. H. Minkenhof. An Early Chinese Bronze Mask. no. 29 The Netherlands, April 1950. p. 20, fig. 9.
  • Robert Poor. Two Recently Excavated Chinese Bronzes. vol. 24, no. 1, Spring 1978. pp. 70-78, fig. 5.
  • Bernhard Karlgren. Yin and Chou in Chinese Bronzes. no. 8, 1955 article reprint. Stockholm. p. 84, pl. 12, E40.
  • Martin Feddersen. Chinesisches Kunstgewerbe. Berlin. p. 100, pl. 85.
  • Charles D. Weber. Chinese Pictorial Bronze Vessels of the Late Chou Period, Part III (of IV). vol. 29, no. 2/3 Washington and Zurich. pp. 115-174, figs. 38.20.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Rutherford John Gettens, James Cahill, Noel Barnard. The Freer Chinese Bronzes. Oriental Studies Series, vol. 1, no. 7 Washington. cat. 63, p. 351.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

The information presented on this website may be revised and updated at any time as ongoing research progresses or as otherwise warranted. Pending any such revisions and updates, information on this site may be incomplete or inaccurate or may contain typographical errors. Neither the Smithsonian nor its regents, officers, employees, or agents make any representations about the accuracy, reliability, completeness, or timeliness of the information on the site. Use this site and the information provided on it subject to your own judgment. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery welcome information that would augment or clarify the ownership history of objects in their collections.

Related Objects