Bronze censers are religious articles intended, in China, to burn incense in ceremonies in honor of the gods, saints and spirits of the deceased.
Modest in size and with a short and full foot for domestic and family altars, they could reach large sizes like this imposing and very heavy specimen for temples and religious buildings intended for worship and public celebrations. In this case, the censer has a high belly perched on three stable feet, which allows high temperatures because the large-sized perfume burners most often assigned to official or imperial temples sometimes burned the incense several times. days and nights. The present specimen therefore belongs to the latter category of which there are very few examples, because, under the Ming, a large number of temples were looted and their bronze articles melted down to make the weapons necessary for the many internal wars of this troubled dynasty. .
The belly and neck registers are decorated with Chinese Greek motifs ("leiwen") and archaic figures of taotie masks inspired by the bronzes of the Shang and Zhou dynasties (from -1700 to -256). The legs are decorated with figures of fierce chimeras, traditional guardians of Chinese cults. The cover, usually provided with holes to let the fumaroles pass and control the combustion, was here lost and replaced at a later date by an elegant rosewood cover provided with ruyi-shaped holes, the socket was also finely carved in smoke clouds form in ivory or bone in the late 18th century or early 19th century. A rosewood disk has been added in modern times, evidently to fill a gap that a red coral disk representing the sun must have created.
This very rare and imposing religious article, which concentrates all the power of the Ming aesthetic, is to be compared to a similar incense burner but of a smaller size sold in Christie's London on November 3, 2020, lot 18.