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Shang Dynasty Gu

An ancient Chinese beaker (or gu). Metal, 26.5 x 15.6 cm (10 7/16 x 6 1/8 in.) overall. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)
An ancient Chinese beaker (or gu). Metal, 26.5 x 15.6 cm (10 7/16 x 6 1/8 in.) overall. (Courtesy Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

1200–1100 B.C.

According to the Gardner Museum website, this 10-inch tall ancient Shang dynasty bronze beaker was one of the oldest objects in the entire collection, and by far the oldest of the stolen objects. Mrs. Gardner bought it in 1922 for $17,500 and placed it in the Dutch Room on a small table in front of Zurburán’s “Doctor of Law,” the painting just to the right of the stolen Rembrandt seascape. The austere trumpet-shaped cup of the beaker is supported by a stem and base overwrought with more intricate interweaving. It was surely one of the most elegant pieces in the entire museum.

— Written by Lloyd Schwartz


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