A large white jade tripod incense burner and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period1

A large white jade tripod incense burner and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period2

Lot 3112. A large white jade tripod incense burner and cover, Qing dynasty, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 20.5 cm., 8 inEstimate 2,000,000 — 3,000,000 HKD. Lot sold  2,600,000 HKD (335,400 USD). © Sotheby's

the even white stone finely worked with a compressed globular form resting on three lion masks terminating in short cabriole feet, the shoulder flanked by a pair of dragon handles suspending a loose ring, finely decorated in low relief with a pair of taotie masks above a scroll band, the domed cover worked in low relief with a pair of taotie masks and surmounted by an openwork knop worked in the form of an upright budding lotus blossom flanked on two sides by leaves and a pair of smaller lotus buds, and the other two sides with a pair of stylised chilong.

ProvenancePurchased in an antiques fair in Japan, mid 1990s.

NoteContinuing in the Song dynasty tradition of reinterpreting large archaic ritual bronzes into smaller jade vessels, this incense burner is a fine example of the skilled workmanship of Qing dynasty craftsmen. Fashioned from a luminous white stone, the quality of which is accentuated through the low-relief carving of the body, it incorporates the archaic taotie animal masks on the body and has replaced bird or beast handles often found on ritual bronzes with dragons, the imperial symbol of the emperor, which firmly identifies the owner of the piece.

This incense burner is particularly notable for the elaborate knop which surmounts the cover. Skilfully carved in openwork in the form of a lotus blossom in the centre, flanked by two leaves and a pair of buds and a pair of chilong, the craftsman has employed it as an aesthetic tool, by which the delicate carving balances the heavy form of the body, as well as a symbolic reference. When viewed from the top the knop resembles a four-point vajra, which reveals the Qianlong Emperor’s dedication to Tibetan Buddhism as well as indicating the various traditions he sought to uphold.

A related incense burner, but the dragon handles suspending two rings on each side and with a Qianlong mark and of the period, was sold in these rooms, 29th November 1979, lot 439. Compare also another of this type, but with a dragon finial on the cover, sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 20th March 1990, lot 974, and again in these rooms, 31st October 2004, lot 10.

Sotheby's. Imperial Porcelain and Works of Art from a Hong Kong Private Collection, Hong Kong, 07 april 2015, 10:15 AM