Lot 17. A rare white jade archaistic tripod incense burner and cover, Qianlong period (1736-1795); 20.5cm (8in) across the handlesEstimate HK$600,000 - 800,000 (€69,000 - 92,000)Sold for HK$ 3,640,000 (€ 434,922). Photo: Bonhams. 

The hemispherical bowl raised on three short cabriole legs emerging from mythical-beast masks, each side crisply carved with an archaistic taotie mask, separated by six columns of vertical flanges, the sides flanked by a pair of S-shaped handles curving upward, the domed cover similarly carved, surmounted by a finial decorated with aruyi-head collar (2).

ProvenanceAcquired from Spink & Son Ltd., London, on 27 November 1956
A distinguished European private collection, and thence by descent

NoteThe superb carving and elegant shape of the present lot is an exemplary work of art, representing the Qianlong emperor's passion for jade and his fascination with antiquity and archaism rendered by the skilful craftsmen who took inspiration from archaic bronze ritual vessels. 

This gesture to archaism demonstrates the Qianlong emperor's interest in the perceived austerity and morals of ancient times, whilst the great lustre of the white stone as well as the exuberance and complexity of the archaistictaotie design exhibit the extravagant taste of the Qing court at the height of prosperity. For a full discussion about the Qianlong emperor's view of ancient culture, see Chang Li-tuan, The Refined Taste of the Emperor: Special Exhibition of Archaic and Pictorial Jades of the Ch'ing Court, Taipei, 1997, pp.49-50. 

Compare a white jade tripod incense burner, Qianlong period, also carved with taotie motifs with comparable S-scroll ears in the Songzhutang Collection, illustrated by T.Fok, The Splendour of Jade: The Songzhutang Collection of Jade, Hong Kong, 2011, p.125, pl.106; see also a Qianlong period jade incense burner with related finial knob and another example with similar handles, illustrated in Compendium of Collections in the Palace Museum: Jade 10, Qing Dynasty, Beijing, 2011, pls.67 and 101; and see also a related white jade archaistic tripod incense burner and cover, Qianlong, illustrated in A Romance with Jade: from the De An Tang Collection, Hong Kong, 2004, no.100, later sold as part of a three-piece garniture, at Sotheby's Hong Kong on 10 April 2006, lot 1509. 

A related white jade archaistic tripod incense burner and cover, Qianlong, but carved with bird handles and ram heads on the cover, sold in these rooms on 26 May 2014, lot 100.