While tianqi ('filled-in lacquer') was known from at least the 3rd century, it grew in popularity during the Jiajing (r. 1522-66) and Wanli (r. 1573-1620) reigns. This technique, which involves filling different colors of lacquer into incised outlines, allowed craftsmen to achieve attractive shading effects in vibrant colours within clearly defined forms, particularly evident on the painterly scenes of bird and flower on the top panels. Highly laborious and time-consuming, this technique was mostly reserved for smaller-sized objects and rarely on larger furnishings such as the present pair.
Compare an incense stand of closely related form and design, but with the apron decorated in panels enclosing flowers, attributed to the Kangxi period, sold at Christie’s Paris, 20th June 2017, lot 106; a smaller example decorated with dragons and further embellished in the qiangjin technique, and the waist detailed with quatrefoil floral scrolls, sold in our London rooms, 9th November 2011, lot 38, and again in our Hong Kong rooms, 8th October 2014, lot 3795; and a pair of stands with an eight-lobed top and a flared conforming bracket-lobed apron, sold in these rooms, 17th-18th March 2015, lot 228.
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