With the technical advances and virtuosity of porcelain production during the Qianlong period, potters from the official kilns were able to experiment with different ways and techniques to satisfy the emperor's penchant for the curious and archaic. Although the idea of porcelain imitating other materials was not pioneered by the potters during the Qianlong reign, the technique was nevertheless very popular.
The present lot comes from a small group of porcelain wares decorated in imitation of cloisonné and champlevé enamel. On this censer and others like it, even the effect of the gilt-wire outlines has been simulated. No other censer of this design appears to have been published, and none that are as exquisitely made with the combination of the intricate enamelled decoration and the simulated gilt-bronze. The most closely related piece is a famille rose vase imitating cloisonné enamel from the Robert Chang Collection, sold in these Rooms, 2 November 1999, lot 505. Compare also with the Tibetan ewer also made to simulate cloisonné enamel, included in the present sale, lot 1243; and another in the Hong Kong Museum of Art, included in the exhibition The Wonders of the Potter's Palette, 1984, Catalogue, no. 70.
A censer which also simulates enamelled gilt-bronze is in the National Palace Museum, Taipei, included in A Special Exhibition of Incense Burners and Perfumers Throughout the Dynasties, 1994, illustrated in the Catalogue, no. 83; and another, as part of a set with box and tool vase, is illustrated ibid., no. 89.