A Ding-type 'Lion' censer and cover, Song dynasty (960-1279)

Lot 66. A Ding-type 'Lion' censer and cover, Song dynasty (960-1279); 17.8 cm, 7  in. Estimate 25,000 — 30,000 GBP. Lot Sold 52,500 GBP. Courtesy Sotheby's 2018. 

the rounded body carved with lotus petals, supported on a domed hexagonal plinth surmounted with lappets, the cover in the form of a crouching lion with its head slightly raised and its mouth agape. Quantité: 2.

Provenance: Christie’s London, 13th November 2001, lot 17B.

NoteRobustly potted and intricately modelled, the present censer is a skilful creation that successfully captures the both the playfulness and the majesty of a lion through the animated expression and upright posture. The lion is a popular emblem symbolising spiritual power and physical strength, and the present interpretation appears to be associated with a physically similar mythical beast, suan ni, one of nine sons of the dragon. This legendary animal was said to be fond of smoke and therefore frequently incorporated into censer designs in ceramics and bronzes.

This charming piece also reflects the major impact of the affluent and well-educated classes of merchants and government officials on arts during the Song dynasty (960-1279). Their increased interest in incense, the fragrance which has been praised by poets and painters for its efficacy in artistic creativity stimulation and gloom dissipation, led to the production of a select group of apertures with sophisticated and detailed features which were used as domestic furnishing, such as the present censer.


Vessels with such delicate details were prone to distortion during the firing process, hence their rarity. Qingbai  figures of this type are also known; compare a smaller censer and cover modelled in the form of a lion, seated on a cylindrical base decorated with four masks in high relief, exhibited in Early Chinese Ceramics. An American Private Collection, J. J. Lally & Co., New York, 2005, cat. no. 37; and a larger example, supported on a lotus pedestal, sold in our New York rooms, 11th September 2012, lot 139.


A Qingbai 'Lion' censer and cover, Song-Yuan dynasty. Height 9 3/8 in., 23.8 cm. Sold for 43,750 USD at Sotheby's New York, 11th September 2012, lot 139. Courtesy Sotheby's 2012

Cf. my post: A Qingbai 'Lion' censer and cover, Song-Yuan dynasty

Sotheby's. Important Chinese Art, London, 16 may 2018, 10:30 AM