extremely finely potted in the form of an archaic bronze li vessel, the flattened everted rim poised above the wide straight neck, the body of compressed globular form with a band around the shoulder extending down to form flanges on the outer side of each leg, the legs tapering down to the orange-russet unglazed tips, covered overall in a very fine pale-green glaze thinning to a whitish-green tone at the rim and flanges, the back of each leg with a small circular air-vent, together with a Japanese Meiji period pierced silver cover and an intricate partially lacquered Japanese Edo period box
'Longquan' celadon incense burners of this classic elegant form, based on archaic bronze tripods (li), are characteristic of the Southern Song period and were particularly appreciated in Japan, although it is extremely rare to find one of such impressive large size. The present censer is also superbly finished, with the edges around the rim and the flanges particularly crisp and delicate with an unusually thin glaze that defines the form of the vessel to a greater degree than usual. A 'Longquan' censer of somewhat larger proportions in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, was included in the exhibition Song Ceramics, Tobu Museum of Art, Tokyo, 1999, cat.no.73; and another similar example was sold in our New York rooms, 19th September 2001, lot 132. See also a censer of similar height but slightly broader body and with more pronounced grooved step at the flanges sold in these rooms, 17th November 1999, lot 737.
Celadon censers of this form but generally of smaller size are preserved in several major collections; for example, a censer in the Enkakuji, a temple near Kamakura in Japan, which has been designated an 'Important Cultural Property', is illustrated in Chûgoku no tôji, vol.4, Tokyo, 1997, col. pl.67. Compare also a censer in Taipei, illustrated in Porcelain of the National Palace Museum: Lung-ch’üan Ware of the Sung Dynasty, Hong Kong, 1962, pl.15; another formerly in the collection of Edward T. Chow, included in Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics from the Meiyintang Collection, vol.1, London, 1994, pl.565; and two examples from the Qing Court collection and now in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum: Porcelain of the Song Dynasty, vol.II, Hong Kong, 1996, pls.125 & 126.
The present censer is housed in two superb boxes, one of which is decorated with a lacquered landscape. It is extremely rare to find ceramic objects encased in ornate expensive boxes of this type. The outstanding and exceptionally rare packaging of the present censer indicates that the censer possibly belonged to a noble family.
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