Anthropomorphic censers or vessels such as the present lot were traditionally burial wares. From about the sixteenth century onwards, such vessels became appreciated for both their ornamental and functional uses in official households, and were particularly popular in Japan, as noted by R. Kerr, Later Chinese Bronzes, 1990, p. 80.
A very similar censer of larger size was included in the exhibition, The Second Bronze Age: Later Chinese Metalwork, Sydney L. Moss Ltd., London 1991, Catalogue, no. 19, while another of smaller size and with an inscription dated to the second year of Tianqi, corresponding to A.D. 1622, was sold in London, 15 May 1990, lot 352. Compare a similar animal carved in bamboo, possibly in imitation of bronze examples, from the Avery Brundage Collection, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, illustrated in Bamboo Carving of China, 1983, Catalogue, no. 56.