Lot 75. A rare and gilt polychrome lacquer 'Elephant' incense stand, 18th century; 51cm (20 1/8) deep x 51cm (20 1/8) wide x 86cm (33 7/8) high. Estimate £50,000 - 80,000Sold for £ 81,312 (€ 92,827). © Bonhams 2001-2019

Finely incised and coloured in varying shades of red, green and brown transmuting to black, all picked out with traces of gold filling within the incisions, the top finely incised and gilt with an elephant supporting a vase with flowers amidst cloud scrolls, surmounting a broad, flaring, cusped and barbed apron decorated with lotus scrolls, all raised on four cabriole legs terminating in outward curving slipper feet, supported on a square frame. 

Provenance: a distinguished French private collection, Normandy.

NoteIncense stands such as the present example were used both in religious as well as secular contexts as contemporaneous paintings and prints illustrate. Often positioned in the center of a room, such stands supporting incense burners were designed with great attention to detail and form, pleasing to the eye from any angle. 

Polychrome lacquer became popular in the late Ming dynasty, either brush painted or gold-engraved and colored in the more onerous qianjin-and-tianqi technique as found on the present table. The design on the top of the incense stand is also particularly auspicious and the combination of a 'vase' (ping 瓶) which puns with 'peace' (ping 平), and elephant (xiang 象) which also means 'sign' or 'portent', forms a rebus for the phrase taiping youxiang (太平有象), meaning 'Where there is peace, there is a sign (or elephant)'. 

Compare with a related lacquer 'dragon' incense stand, 17th century, which was sold at Sotheby's New York, 20 March 2019, lot 714.

Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art, London, 16 May 2019