A RARE LARGE DATED SANCAI-GLAZED POTTERY ‘DRAGON’ CENSER
DRAGONS FROM THE EMPIRE - IMPERIAL CERAMICS FROM THE YIDETANG COLLECTION
A RARE LARGE DATED SANCAI-GLAZED POTTERY ‘DRAGON’ CENSER

DATED WANLI 40TH YEAR BY INSCRIPTION, CORRESPONDING TO 1612 AND OF THE PERIOD

Details
A RARE LARGE DATED SANCAI-GLAZED POTTERY ‘DRAGON’ CENSER
DATED WANLI 40TH YEAR BY INSCRIPTION, CORRESPONDING TO 1612 AND OF THE PERIOD
The exterior of the censer is boldly carved in high relief around the sides with a pair of scaly four-clawed dragons emerging from clouds and confronted below a black flaming pearl on the neck, with a yellow ruyi collar pendent from the upright rim incised in a panel on one side with the dated inscription, Da Mingguo Wanli sishi nian suici renzi jiyue zhizao, ‘Made in the auspicious month of the renzi cycle in the 40th year of the Wanli reign of the Great Ming dynasty’, flanked by a pair of upright handles carved with a vertical ribbed band between a ruyi terminal below and another overhanging above, all supported on three cabriole legs emerging from lion-masks.
21 in. (53.5 cm.) high, wood stand, wood cover with soapstone finial
Provenance
Falk Collection, no. 57
Sold at Christie’s New York, 16 October 2001, lot 150

Brought to you by

Marco Almeida (安偉達)
Marco Almeida (安偉達) SVP, Senior International Specialist, Head of Department

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Lot Essay

This magnificent censer belongs to a tradition of vigorously modelled, brilliantly glazed, large tripod censers dating back at least to the Yuan period. In 1964 a 14th century tripod censer (37 cm. high) with a dragon on one side and a phoenix on the other was excavated from the site of the Desheng Gate of the Yuan dynasty capital Dadu, modern Beijing, see Christie’s Education, Treasures from Ancient Beijing, New York, 2000, p. 16, no. 5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art has in its collection a tripod censer (43.5 cm. high) with a dragon and phoenix in high relief, illustrated in Oriental Ceramics, The Worlds Great Collections, vol. 11, Tokyo, 1982, no. 20, which is dated by inscription to the 7th year of Zhengde, equivalent to AD 1512.

The present censer is even larger, 52.4 cm. high, and is dated by inscription to the 40th (renzi) year of Wanli, equivalent to AD 1612, and may be seen as the culmination of this tradition, which appears to begin sometime in the Yuan dynasty as a by-product of the tile-making industry. There was a flourishing industry making glazed architectural tiles in bright colours in southern Shanxi. Some of these tiles were for important buildings, made when the structure was under construction, when it was dedicated or when it was refurbished. In these instances an inscription was often applied to one of the tiles to commemorate the occasion. A large tile decorated in high relief in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, is of this type and bears an inscription dated to the 27th year of Jiajing (equivalent to AD 1548) and states that the tile was part of the restoration to a temple in Zhili province; see R. Scott and R. Kerr, Ceramic Evolution in the Middle Ming Period, Percival David Foundation, 1994, p. 26, no. 37. In many instances, when the temples or other important buildings were constructed or refurbished, impressive new ritual vessels were also commissioned and inscribed with the appropriate date. It is probable that the present censer, with its large size, splendidly modelled high relief dragons and dated inscription, was made for such an occasion.

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