A rare parcel-gilt bronze censer, gui, Ming dyansty, 16th-17th century, Yunjian Hu Wenming zhi seal mark

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Lot 8117. A rare parcel-gilt bronze censer, gui, Ming dynasty, 16th-17th century, Yunjian Hu Wenming zhi seal mark; 10 1/2 in. (26.7 cm.) wide. Estimate HKD 300,000 - HKD 500,000Price realised HKD 562,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2017

The censer is decorated in repousse on each side in a central band with various mythical sea creatures including winged dragons and horses rising from waves, all in relief, finely chased and gilt against a dark ground, between bands of silver-inlaid keyfret around the neck and foot, flanked on either side by dragon-head loop handles, cast with a rectangular gilt panel on the base bearing the mark.

ProvenanceGerard Hawthorn Ltd Oriental Art, London, 2003
Sold at Christie’s New York, 20 September 2005, lot 126

LiteratureGerard Hawthorn Ltd Oriental Art, Oriental Works of Art, London, 9-20 June 2003, Catalogue, pl. 18.

NoteThe current censer displays remarkable workmanship combining several complex decorative techniques, including inlay of silver wires, chasing of the wavy ground and hammering of gilt decorations on the main band. The engraved seal mark, Yunjian Hu Wenming zhi, may be translated, ‘made by Hu Wenming of Yunjian (modern Songjiang, near Shanghai)’. Hu Wenming was a celebrated metalworker who was active during the late 16th to early 17th century. The same mark can be found on a slightly smaller censer with similar decoration in the main band and with similar handles, in the Palace Museum Collection and listed as a ‘national first-grade cultural relic’, illustrated in Illustrated Important Chinese Cultural Relics Ranking Standard- Bronze, Beijing, 2006, pl. 143 (fig. 1).

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parcel-gilt bronze censer, gui, Ming dynasty, 16th-17th century, Yunjian Hu Wenming zhi seal mark, ‘national first-grade cultural relic’, Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

Christie's. Court, Studio, Atelier Chinese Works of Art and Paintings from The Ming Dynasty Evening Sale, 27 November 2017, Hong Kong