Lot 102. A very rare gilt-bronze and cloisonné enamel 'treasures' incense burner, Yuan-early Ming Dynasty, 9.5cm (3 3/4in) diam. (3). Estimate HK$600,000 - 700,000 (US$77,000 - 90,000). Sold for HK$ 725,000 (€83,192). Photo: Bonhams.
Of cylindrical form with gently tapering sides, raised on three ruyi-shaped feet, the exterior colourfully enamelled with two tiers of lotus blossoms, each enclosing one of the 'Various Treasures', zabao, borne on undulating leafy stems in vivid tones of white, yellow, red and green on a light turquoise ground, wood box and stand.
Note: The present incense burner is very rare for the double depiction of the zabao, 'Various Treasures', shown on each of the two tiers of the lotus scrolls in the centre of each blossom. Also known as the 'Precious Objects', they often appear on porcelain from the Yuan dynasty, indicating an early date for this incense burner; see for example the famous 'David Vases', a pair of blue and white temple vases, dated by inscription to AD 1351, painted within the lotus lappets with the zabao, illustrated in Splendors in Smalt: Art of the Yuan Blue-and-White Porcelain, Shanghai, 2012, pl.1 (one of the pair illustrated).
Detail of one of the David Vases; Sir Percival David Collection; Image courtesy of the Trustess of the British Museum, London
The powerful design of the lotus scroll, the petals boldly enamelled in red, yellow, white and green, issuing thickly-bodied multi-coloured tendrils, is typical of cloisonné enamel wares dated to the early Ming dynasty; however, there is an ongoing debate as to whether some of these may be datable to the Yuan dynasty. Compare a similar design on a cloisonné enamel circular box and cover, first half 15th century, and see also the tendrils on a cloisonné enamel barbed-rim dish, first half 15th century, illustrated by H.Brinker and A.Lutz, Chinese Cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection, London, 1989, pls.7 and 11.
Compare a related cloisonné enamel alms bowl, early 15th century, which was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 29 May 2007, lot 1435.