Important Ritual Ewer, Yi
Zhou Dynasty, China, 800-700 BC
Length : 37 cm
Provenance : Collection Alphonse Kann, Paris (n° 365)
Seized by the Nazis in October 1940
In deposit at the Jeu de Paume (réf. KA 121)
Transferred at Altaussee center, Austria
Collection Hélène Kann-Bokanowski, Paris
Publication : "KunstKammer"
(M. Doustar, 2017), n°30
This very rare and important bronze vessel -called yi- probably dating from beginning of the Spring and Autumn Period ( 770-476 BC) was a water vessel that was often used in conjunction with a pan for the ritual washing of hands, which is confirmed by the two having been found togheter in tombs, usually with the yi in the pan. Raised on four intricate legs with sides horizontally grooved under a band interlaced dragons motif, the handle cast as an elongated dragon with the head at top end portion supplied with two long-tailed feline beast adorned with a spectacular pair of angular openwork horns. An almost identical yi vessel called the "Ch'u Human Yi Yi", from the esteemed collection of Mr Walter Sedgwick is published in Ancient Chinese Bronzes, W. Watson (1962),p. 76.
Alphonse Kann (1870-1948) was a prominent French art collector of Jewish heritage. He was a childhood playmate and adult friend of the writer Marcel Proust, who incorporated several of Kann's features into the character Charles Swann (in Swann in Love). The name Kann, written with a double "n", was said in Paris to be "le plus chic du chic". Known for his discerning taste and shrewd collecting instincts, Kann shocked the art world in 1927 by auctioning off (at the American Art Association, New York City) most of his Old Master collection (including works by Bruegel, Cimabue, Fragonard, Pollaiuolo, Rubens and Tintoretto) in order to concentrate on the acquisition of 19th-century and modern art, with he collected vigorously over the following decade. Kann left France for England in 1938 without making an inventory of his eclectic art collection, which was kept in a St-Germain-en -Laye mansion and subsequently looted in October 1940 by Nazi occupiers.