Lot 207. A massive documentary archaistic ritual bronze incense burner, FangDing, Qianlong, dated by inscription to the 41st year of the reign Qianlong corresponding to 1776 and of the period; 194cm (76 1/2in) high x 43cm (17in) deep x 94cm (37in) wide. Estimate £ 40,000 - £ 60,000. Sold for £ 93,812 (€ 103,740). Courtesy Bonhams.
Of rectangular form, cast on each side with a taotie mask in low relief, with stylised body and claw motifs on the sides, against the thunder patterns, centred with flanges, below a narrow register of low relief chilong scroll, the four vertical faces with pronounced square flanges terminating in points at the corners, under the lipped rim surmounted by a pair of loop handles, all supported on four tall dragon legs, wood cover.
Provenance: White Allom & Co. London (label)
Harold Hyam Wingate (1901-1979), acquired in the 1950s, and thence by descent.
Note: The side of the exterior is inscribed:
乾隆四十一年 台灣府知府蔣元樞捐造 貢生蔣得皋監製
Which may be translated as:
'The forty-first year of Qianlong reign, donated by the Prefect of Taiwan, Jiang Yuanshu, manufacture supervised by Tribute Student, Jiang Degao'
The present lot would have belonged to a group of bronze ritual vessels commissioned and donated by Jiang Yuanshu. These bronze vessels are depicted in the 'Illustrations of Ritual Vessels at the Confucius Temple' (孔廟禮器圖) from the Illustrated Explanations of Renovating Various Buildings in Taiwan Prefecture (重修臺郡各建築圖說).
'Illustrations of Ritual Vessels at the Confucius Temple' (孔廟禮器圖) from the Illustrated Explanations of Renovating Various Buildings in Taiwan Prefecture (重修臺郡各建築圖說).
Jiang Yuanshu 蔣元樞 (1738-1781), style name Zhongsheng (仲升), sobriquet Xiangyan (香巖), was a native of Changshu in Jiangsu. He served as the Prefect of Taiwan from the fortieth to the forty-third year of the Qianlong reign (1775–1778). According to the Illustrated Explanations of Renovating Various Buildings in Taiwan Prefecture by Jiang Yuanshu, he noted in 1776 that 'all the vessels used at the Confucian Temples in Taiwan Prefecture are made of lead-tin bronze, which is of humble quality'. Therefore, he 'carefully consulted Confucian regulations and selected artisans in Suzhou to establish a workshop, purchased bronze, created a foundry, cast ritual vessels and musical instruments, and had them all shipped to Taiwan'.
See three other identical bronze ritual incense burners with the same inscription existing in Taiwan, two in the Tainan Confucius Temple and another in the Tainan Grand Matsu Temple.
Bonhams. Fine Chinese Art, London, 5 Nov 2020