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Ritual Wine Vessel (Guang)

This Shang dynasty bronze guang, or ritual wine vessel, is the Museum's finest early bronze. Truly sculptural in its conception, the guang combines striking animal imagery with finely cast geometric designs. One writer has suggested the animals represent spirits that possessed Shang shamans, or priests. The vessel may have been used during Shang royal rituals, which included the serving of food and wine. Like other bronzes, this guang was a symbol of authority because possession of the best artistic products was directly linked to social and political prestige.

Catalogue Description:
Oblong wine pouring vessel in the shape of a mythical animal, mold-cast in bronze with high-relief decoration of stylized animal and geometric forms. Brooklyn's Shang Dynasty bronze "Guang" is the Museum's finest early bronze. Truly sculptural in its conception, the "Guang" combines striking animal imagery with finely cast geometric designs. The rituals of the Shang kings were elaborations of banquets that included serving food and wine, and this superbly cast "Guang" is a type of wine vessel. Like other bronzes, it is a symbol of authority, and possession of the best artistic products is directly linked to social and political prestige. The decoration of animals and animal masks raises the much debated question of meaning in Shang bronzes. One writer has suggested the animals represent spirits that possessed Shang shamans during ritual, but this question, which is fueled by the extraordinary sophistication and assurance of Shang animal ornament, has no simple answer.


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