Incense stands, both in lacquer and hardwood, are seen in a variety of forms, including round, square, foliate, hexagonal and octagonal and are constructed with three, four or five legs. Round lacquer incense stands appear to be the most commonly published examples and are depicted in woodblock prints from the Ming dynasty (fig. 1). The Palace Museum, Beijing has four examples ranging in date from the Xuande period (1426-1435) to the early Qing dynasty, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Furniture of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, 2002, nos. 162, 165, 166, and 169.
Of the extant examples published in hardwood, there appears to be only one other three-legged circular incense stand, formerly in the collection of Wang Shixiang, illustrated in Wang Shixiang, Classic Chinese Furniture, Ming and Early Qing Dynasties, Chicago, p. 125, no. 72, and now in the collection of the Shanghai Museum (fig. 2). Similar to the present example, the three-legged circular incense stand in the Shanghai Museum is carved with the same inter-locking curling tendril to the shaped apron and exhibits similar construction of the legs which are joined to the apron in a flush-mitre joint that is blind tenoned into the top. The stand also has the same truncated section to the upper part of the leg and similar leaf-carved toe. The proportions are similar; however, the 'de Santos' incense stand is slightly taller, measuring 95.2 cm. high against 89.3 cm. for the example in the Shanghai Museum.
For another example of a circular incense stand with cabriole legs, see a huanghuali incense stand, (97 cm. high), formerly in the collection of the Museum of Classical Chinese Furniture, sold at Christie's New York, 19 September 1995, lot 48 and now in the Tseng Riddell Collection, Taipei. A five-legged incense stand, measuring 61 cm. high from the collection of Gangolf Geis was sold by Christie's New York, 18 September 2003, lot 1330. The tradition of Chinese furniture called for general uniformity of height for most forms, therefore it is quite unusual that extant incense forms are found in a variety of heights. This anomaly is directly addressed in the Lu Ban Jing, Juan II:77, "When making an incense table, one should first consider the size of the house.” See, Klaas Ruitenbeek, Carpentry & Building in Late Imperial China, 1996, p. 256, for a more in depth discussion of incense stand construction.
A related four-legged huanghuali incense stand, measuring 93 cm. high, in the collection of Dr. Chu-Pak Lau was published in Classical Chinese Huanghuali Furniture from the Haven Collection, Hong Kong, 2016, p. 284-285, no. 73 and was exhibited at the University Museum and Art Gallery of Hong Kong.