East Asia, western China, Han Dynasty, ca. 3rd to 2nd century BCE. A black earthenware vessel of incredibly distinctive form, its surface studded with raised bronze shield-like bosses at regular intervals. There is incised decoration on the neck and under the lower parts of the handles and a raised swirl pattern on the lower body. The mouth opens in a distinctive oval form; wide strap handles flow down from its narrow rim to join the widest part of the body. The surface is burnished to a fine dark grey. The amphora has a ringed base that is slightly inset and has a cross-hatched pattern on its underside. Size: 7.05" W x 6.4" H (17.9 cm x 16.3 cm)
This type of double-handled amphora was made in western Sichuan province, in central China, and is known as Lifan after the particular area where vessels like it are found. The style is fascinating, very different from others created during the Han period, and seems to be an artistic callback to the elegant forms of the Chinese Neolithic. These vessels are found mainly within rock-cut tombs and cist burials, with a few examples known from the more classically Han chambered brick tombs. This suggests that these vessels were made by immigrants or members of non-dominant ethnic groups within Han China, probably people who lived a nomadic lifestyle centered on husbandry while their Chinese contemporaries led more sedentary, agricultural-based lifestyles.
This piece has been tested using thermoluminescence (TL) and has been found to be ancient and of the period stated. A full report will accompany purchase.
See a similar example at the Minneapolis Institute of Art: https://collections.artsmia.org/art/31241/black-amphora-with-double-handles-china
Provenance: private Omer Claiborne collection, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, acquired over the last 40 years
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