Bronze Vessel Picture

The Irresistible Allure of Patina and Pedigree: A Case Study

Lothar von Falkenhausen (University of California Los Angeles)

Ritual bronze vessels and bells were among the earliest objects to be systematically collected, curated, and published in China. The reasons for this are not exclusively esthetic—their association with textual records of the Confucian canon, the presence (at least in many cases) of inscriptions that could complement the historical record, and their status as surviving testimony from the “Age of Confucius” were arguably more important to early collectors than their often elaborate zoomorphic decoration. Unsurprisingly, as the market in antiques took off, bronzes and their inscriptions were also among the first objects to be reproduced and forged in China. As a consequence, issues of authenticity have continued to plague the study of Chinese bronzes to the present day. As a case study, this lecture focuses on a single bronze vessel that was published for the first time fairly recently; if genuine, it would have a chance of being the only still-extant vessel documented in the pioneering bronze catalogues from the Song Dynasty. The discussion of the object and of its inscription will reveal some of the complexities involved in authenticating unprovenienced bronzes in private collections, as well as the ethical issues involved in their study.

Tuesday, 16 March, 2021, 14:00-15:30 GMT

The keynote and the entire conference will be held online via Zoom. To receive the link, please register via If you are experiencing difficulties with signing up or if you have any questions, please contact Drs Chris Foster & Anke Hein at:


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