A rare blue and white Ming ‘figural’ tripod censer, Ming dynasty, 15th century

Lot 2926. A rare blue and white Ming ‘figural’ tripod censer, Ming dynasty, 15th century; 6.15/16 in. (17.5 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 700,000 - HKD 900,000. Price realised HKD 1,250,000© Christie's Image Ltd 2019.

 The cylindrical censer is painted on the exterior with two groups of figures, one depicting an elderly man riding on a donkey, accompanied by an attendant holding a tree branch, the other showing a scholar riding on a horse followed an attendant with a carrying pole, divided by rocks and grassy mounds, all below a moulded band and a key-fret band, and raised on three cabriole legs painted with floral motifs. The underside of the base is unglazed except for the outermost ring, lacquer cover, Japanese wood box.

ProvenanceMayuyama & Co., Ltd.
A Japanese private collection.

LiteratureMayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, Tokyo, 1976, p. 252, no. 760 (fig. 1)

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fig. 1 Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, Tokyo, 1976, p. 252.

NoteA blue and white censer of this form and of comparable size, depicting Daoist figures and dating to the Hongzhi period, is in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Blue and White Porcelain with Underglazed Red (II), Hong Kong, 2000, no. 43 (fig. 2).

A blue and white 'Daoist figures' censer, Hongzhi period (1488-1505), Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

fig. 2. A blue and white 'Daoist figures' censer, Hongzhi period (1488-1505), Collection of the Palace Museum, Beijing.

The same censer is also illustrated by Geng Baochang under the section of Hongzhi porcelain in Mingqing ciqi jianding, Beijing, 1993, p. 106, fig. 195, where he comments on the popularity of this type of censers in the later half of the 15th century. It is interesting to note that both the current censer and the Palace Museum example have very similar mouth rims decorated with keyfrets, and cabriole feet painted with floral motifs. The considerably free and fluid painting style seen on both censers is also strikingly similar.

Christie's. Leisurely Delights, Hong Kong, 29 May 2019