A Longquan celadon tripod censer, Southern Song dynasty (AD 1127-1279)


Lot 709. A Longquan celadon tripod censer, Southern Song dynasty (AD 1127-1279); 5 ½ in. (14 cm.) high. Estimate USD 50,000 - USD 70,000Price realised USD 187,500.  © Christie's Images Ltd 2018

The compressed body has three narrow flanges formed by slip beginning at a slight molded ridge on the shoulder and trailing down each of the three slightly splayed, conical legs, all below the cylindrical neck that rises to a flat, everted rim. The censer is covered overall with a soft sea-green glaze of even tone that thins on the flanges and ends at the bottom of the legs to expose the pale grey ware, reticulated silver cover, gold-lacquered cover, Japanese lacquered box and wood box.

ProvenanceJapanese private collection, Meiji-Taisho period (1868-1912).

NoteThe shape of this censer, based on that of the ancient bronze li, was produced from the Southern Song into the Yuan period for the domestic as well as the export market. The numerous tripod censers retrieved from the Sinan shipwreck provide evidence that this shape was much sought after in Japan, the original destination of the ship's cargo, and where they have since been widely collected.

The thick, translucent glaze is typical of this type of Southern Song Longquan ware, as is the lack of any decoration other than the flanges. A number of Longquan celadon censers of the same shape are published, including several in renowned museum collections. Examples in the Tokyo National Museum and Percival David Foundation, London, are published in Oriental Ceramics, The World's Great Collections, Tokyo, 1982, vol. 1, no. 97, and vol. 6, no. 37, respectively. Others include the example by J. Ayers, The Baur Collection: Chinese Ceramics, vol. I, Geneva, 1972, no. A99; and the National Palace Museum, Taiwan, included in the Illustrated Catalogue of Sung Dynasty Porcelain, Taipei, 1974, no. 12. A larger example (19.7 cm. diam.), found in 1991 in Jinyu village of Nanqiong, Suining city, Sichuan province, is illustrated in Longquan Celadon: The Sichuan Museum Collection, Macau, 1998, pp. 210-11, no. 83. 

Christie's. Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, 22 - 23 March 2018, New York