Examples of zitan incense stands of similar form and decoration include two sold in our New York rooms, 21st September 2006, lot 37, and, 23rd March 2010, lot 168; another sold at Christie’s New York, 17th September 2008, lot 163; and a pair sold at Christie’s Hong Kong, 21st May 2009, lot 1812, all sharing the deeply carved lotus petal motif under the waist. Compare also a pair of hardwood stands of this form and design, from the collection of Marchese Giuseppe Salvago Raggi, sold in our London rooms, 16th May 2012, lot 141; and a zitan stand of similar form, but carved with a flower scroll design, in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Hu Desheng, The Palace Museum Collection. A Treasury of Ming and Qing Dynasty Palace Furniture, vol. 1, Beijing, 2007, pl. 317.
Zitan was the most precious and highly esteemed timber available to the master craftsmen working in the Muzuo (Wood Workshop) belonging to the Zaobanchu (Imperial Palace Workshop). With its jade-like silky texture, extremely fine and dense grain, and subtle and deep lustre, zitan was the favourite timber of the Ming and Qing courts. Its long growth period combined with its limited availability, growing mainly in the southern regions of Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, made it especially valuable. By the Qing Dynasty excessive felling of zitan led to the exhaustion of its supply in China, and by the Qianlong reign, special measures were taken by the court to protect, monitor and restrict the use of zitan to the Palace Workshops.
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