This very rare stand was published by Sir Harry Garner in 1962, when it was in the possession of Spink and Son, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels, London, 1970 (2nd edition), pl. 65. In his discussion of a group of high-quality enamels dating to the Kangxi reign, including this stand, Sir Harry writes: "The consistency in the designs and close conformity in the colours of the enamels suggest that the pieces were made in a single factory in which close control was maintained. Such a control was certainly in force in the imperial factory set up round about 1680 and one is tempted to think that the pieces were made in this factory". Sir Harry goes on to discuss (p. 86) other items in the group and suggests that they may pre-date the imperial factory. However, in the case of this stand he says: "The large stand (Pl. 65) also has Ming features in the decoration, and would stylistically be dated before 1680. But the complexity and size of this imposing piece imply manufacturing facilities such as could only be provided in a very large well-equipped factory. The stand may therefore belong to the first few years of the new [imperial] factory, ..."
A Kangxi cloisonné stand of identical form and the same decoration as the current stand was included in the International Exhibition of Chinese Art, London, 1935 - 6, p. 232, no. 2504. Although the measurements given in the catalogue differ somewhat from those of the current stand, such pieces are so rare and the two stands are so similar even in the profiles and proportions of their legs, that one is tempted to wonder if during the cataloguing for the 1935 - 6 exhibition a mistake could have been made in the sizes, and they are indeed the same stand. There were in fact two cloisonné stands in the exhibition, nos. 2504 and 2507, both belonging to R.C. Bruce of London. It seems possible that with the huge task of cataloguing some 3,078 items for that exhibition, the sizes of the two Bruce cloisonné stands became transposed. If that were the case then the size of the exhibited stand and the current lot would be comparable and, it is very likely that the current lot is the Bruce stand exhibited in 1935 - 6 as no. 2504, while no. 2507 is most likely 704 in the current sale.
The form of this stand and that of lot 704 is exceedingly rare in cloisonné enamel, but is well known in wood and in lacquer. Lacquered and gilded examples are still to be seen at the foot of throne platforms in several palaces within the Imperial Forbidden City, as illustrated in Zijincheng di hou shenghuo, Beijing, 1982, p. 45. Although those still seen in the palaces usually bear incense burners, and these stands are generally called 'incense stands', they were also used to display fine ornaments, flowers and small scholar's rocks. Two of the album leaves in the series of 16 known as Life Portraits of Emperor Yongzheng show similar stands in use. In one album leaf a red lacquer stand of this form holds what appears to be an ancient bronze vase containing flowers (The Complete Collection of the Treasures of the Palace Museum - 14 - Paintings by the Court Artists of the Qing Court, Hong Kong, 1996, p. 110, no. 16.15. On another album leaf in the same series a square-section stand of this type, in black lacquer decorated with gold or inlaid mother-of-pearl, holds a decorative plaque (ibid.. no. 16.14). Two red lacquer stands similar to that in the first album leaf are illustrated in Form and Function, Spink, December 1997, p. 17, no. 12. A square- section black lacquer stand decorated with inlaid mother-of-pearl from the collection of the Musée Guimet in Paris, similar to that in the second album leaf, is illustrated by R. Soame Jenyns and W. Watson in Chinese Art - the Minor Arts, vol. 2, London, 1963, pp. 407 - 8, no. 190. The authors date this stand to the 16th century, and note that it was in the 1935-6 International Exhibition. Interestingly they also note the likeness of this lacquer stand to the two Kangxi cloisonné stands in the same exhibition mentioned above.
An earlier version of the form in red lacquer from the Lee family collection was published by Lee Yu-kuan in Oriental lacquer Art, New York and Tokyo, 1972, pp. 306 - 7, no. 234. This stand has been dated to AD 1069 on the basis of an inscription bearing that date purporting to be by the Song literatus Mi Fei. Since Mi Fei would only have been seventeen years old at the time of the inscription this evidence has to be questioned. Nevertheless this is a relatively early version of the form and shares with the two cloisonné stands in the current sale (lots 703 and 704) cloud-collar elements above and below each leg and finely pointed curled tips to the legs. Another 15th 16th century black lacquered stand with shaped top, which was formerly in the same collection and more recently in the Arthur M. Sackler Collection was sold Christie's, New York, December 1, 1994, lot 172. A similar stand in huanghuali in the collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing is illustrated by Wang Shixiang, Classic Chinese Furniture, Hong Kong, 1986, pp. 279 and 131, pl. 76(i), where the author refers to the shape of the top as resembling a lotus leaf. The round form of this type of stand also appears in miniature, as in the case of the small bronze version holding a sacred mandala on an imperial altar in the Pavilion of Raining Flowers in the Beijing palace, illustrated in Cultural Relics of Tibetan Buddhism Collected in the Qing Palace, Hong Kong, 1992, p. 148, no. 109-1. The current, extremely rare examples (lots 703 and 704) are important examples of this form in cloisonné, and also important as probable early products of the newly established imperial enamel workshops of the 1680s.