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Lot 41. An archaistic silver-inlaid bronze tapir incense burner and cover, Ming dynasty (1368-1644); 18.5cm., 7 1/4 in. Sold 12,000 GBP (Estimate 10,000 - 15,000 GBP). © Sotheby's. 

the beast cast standing four square with head raised and ears pricked, decorated to either side of the body with archaistic C-shaped scrolls inlaid with silver wire and further inlaid around the head and hooves, the back with a hinged domed cover surmounted by an upright post and capped finial, the metal patinated to a dark silvery-brown tone.

ProvenanceOn loan at the Museum fur Ostasiatische Kunst, Berlin, 2001-2006.

Note: An inlaid Ming bronze censer and cover in the form of a tapir was sold at Christie's London, 4th December 1995, lot 184; and another from the estate of Edmund W. Mudge Jr. was sold at Christie's New York, 6th June 1985, lot 488. See a somewhat later miniature bronze vessel with gold and silver inlays, in the form of a tapir, in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, illustrated in Rose Kerr, Later Chinese Bronzes, London, 1990, pl. 40, attributed to the late Ming and early Qing periods. Kerr ibid., p. 50, notes that many of the later bronzes were inlaid with gold and silver and heavily patinated in different colours. These vessels were treasured by collectors as curios.

Ming bronze vessel of this type were modelled after archaic zun of the Warring States period (5th century B.C.) in the shape of an animal, generally identified as tapir. See two 'tapir' vessels preserved in China, both with inlaid decoration, illustrated in Zhongguo qingtongqi quanji, vol. 9, Beijing, 1997, pls. 46, excavated in Shangwangcun, Linzi, Shangdong province, and pl. 45, in the Nanjing Museum.

Sotheby's. Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works Of Art, London, 15 May 2007