Lot 3407
  • 3407


500,000 - 600,000 HKD
bidding is closed


  • bronze
of archaistic liding form, the compressed globular body supported on three short tapering feet, the flared lip surmounted by a pair of arched handles, the base cast with a six-character Xuande reign mark within a recessed panel, the warm caramel-brown exterior decorated with irregular splashes of gold


Christie's Hong Kong, 13th January 1987, lot 416.

Catalogue Note

The surface of the incense burner is covered in irregular spots and flakes of gold, seemingly emerging from the alloy at different angles, in the random fashion that minerals such as gold are discovered in their natural state. This gives a most pleasing overall appearance, the gold splash not distracting from the overall shape of the vessel but subtly reinforcing its rare class.                                        

The origin of gilt-bronze splash remains a source of speculation. Gerard Tsang and Hugh Moss in Arts from the Scholar’s Studio, Hong Kong, 1986, p. 184, mention that the popularity of this surface decoration was fostered by Xuande bronzes of the Ming dynasty where the appearance of the gilt splashes was caused by the uneven surface patination of the vessel. Some scholars have linked gilt-splashed decoration on bronzes to qingbai and Longquan wares of the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties. Robert Mowry in his work on the Phoenix Art Museum exhibition China’s Renaissance in Bronze, Phoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, 1993, p. 169, mentions the appearance of fine paper enlivened with flecks of gold and silver from the early 15th century and suggests that this ‘might have also played a role in the creation of such abstract decoration, either directly inspiring those who designed the bronzes or indirectly moulding taste to appreciate objects sprinkled with gold and silver’. Furthermore, Soame Jenyns and William Watson in Chinese Art. The Minor Arts II, London, 1963, p. 166, illustrate a bronze double vase with gold inlay in the form of splashes, pl. 50, which the authors describe as ‘decorated with elaborately simulated patches of apparent corrosion, the rough projecting parts consisting of pure gold, resembling unworked nuggets and grains inserted into the bronze’.

In Hausmann’s opinion, this is one of the very rare group of Xuande mark and period incense burners, comparable to the six-character Xuande-marked gold-splashed censer from the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Wenwu, 1979, Issue 12, p. 84. The Palace Museum scholars writing in that issue of Wenwu argued that this is the only type of Xuande marked gold splashed incense burner which is almost certainly of the period.