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

Lot 2828. A rare blue and white ‘figural’ tripod censer, Ming dynasty, 15th century; 7 in. (17.8 cm.) diam. Estimate HKD 500,000 - HKD 700,000Price realised HKD 562,500. © Christie's Images Ltd 2020.

The cylindrical censer is painted on the exterior with several figures in a garden scene, featuring a gentleman looking back at two scholars in conversation, followed by an attendant with a carrying pole, divided by an architectural complex partially behind rocks and grassy mounds, all below a moulded band and a keyfret 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.

Provenance: Collection of Mii Temple, Otsu, Japan, according to the label on the Japanese wood box.

Note: Two blue and white censers of similar form, design and size are known. The first one, 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. 1) 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 latter half of the 15th century. The second one, decorated with an elderly man on a donkey with other figures, was illustrated in Mayuyama, Seventy Years, vol. I, Tokyo, 1976, p. 252, no. 760, and later sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 29 May 2019, lot 2926. It is interesting to note that all three censers, including the current 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 these three examples is also strikingly similar.

A blue and white censer, Ming dynasty, Hongzhi period (1487-1505), Palace Museum, Beijing.

fig. 1. blue and white censer, Ming dynasty, Hongzhi period (1487-1505), Palace Museum, Beijing.

Christie's. Important Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art, Hong Kong, 9 July 2020