China, Ming-dynasty (1368-1644). Gold- and silver inlaid and partly brown-greenish patinated bronze. Vessel and cover in the shape of a mythical bird with craned neck. The tail shaped as an elephant's head with long trunk. The back with cover, the cover knob in the shape of an additional bird. Rich inlaid ornamental decorations with stylised feathers and additional mythical beasts. The front with 2 dragons. H. 25,5 cm. - Ritual bronze vessel with such distinctive inlays are based on ancient prototypes from the Warring States period, when new technologies made more elaborate metal decorations possible. Since the Song-dynasty there was a renewed interest in those archaic bronzes in animal-shape. Thanks to printed editions of old collections those bronzes were favored among an elite of scholars and the aristocracy. See: National Palace Museum, Through the Prism of the Past: Antiquarian Trends in Chinese Art of the 16th to 18th Century, Taipei 2003, p. 154, 186. The characteristic form of the present piece can be traced back to ancient models, such as a bird-shape bronze finial from the Warring States period (Xi'an Municipial Museum, G97). The sumptuous decoration of the surface is closely related to a ZUN in the shape of a tapir in the Saint Louis Art Museum. See: Hu, Later Chinese bronzes: The Saint Louis Art Museum and Robert E. Kresko Collections, Saint Louis 2008, p. 42. See also: Watson, The Arts of China, 900-1620, Yale 2000, pp. 239-249. - Prov.: From a European coll.