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Details & Cataloguing

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

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New York

A RARE AND IMPRESSIVE PAIR OF CLOISONNE ENAMEL CENSERS AND COVERS
QING DYNASTY, 18TH / EARLY 19TH CENTURY
each bulbous body decorated with a continuous scene of 'One Hundred Deer' in an idyllic landscape punctuated with fantastic rocks, waterfalls, peach and pine trees, below a finely-cast gilt-bronze lappet border encircling the cylindrical neck, decorated with a frieze of deer, cranes, lingzhi, pine and other auspicious plants, the design repeated on the sides of the galleried rim and curved handles, each pierced with a central slot and connected to the rim with shou-decorated braces, the base centered with a large floral medallion surrounded by a foliate floral band, supported on three legs in the form of cranes, each standing with its head lowered and turned to the side, the domed cover decorated with three ruyi-shaped lappets similarly decorated with cranes and deer, against a champlevé ground of bats amid clouds surrounding shou medallions, surmounted by an ovoid champlevé finial cast with a writhing dragon and flaming pearl amid clouds, wood stands (6)
Height 41 1/2  in., 105.3 cm
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Provenance

Acquired by the family of the present owner in England in the early 20th century.

Catalogue Note

It is rare to find large censers such as these still in a pair. Such items were produced not only to be functional, but also to lend a sense of grandeur to palaces and halls.  A Qianlong period pair traced to the Summer Palace was sold in our Hong Kong salerooms, 10th April 2006, lot 1541. This pair had made its way to France and in fact, many such censers ended up in Europe where they graced the interiors of aristocratic homes. A similar Qianlong period pair in the collection of the British Museum is illustrated in Evelyn S. Rawski and Jessica Rawson (Eds.), China: The Three Emperors 1662-1795, London, 2006, no. 304. A similar single example was sold at Christie's Rome, 26th May 1987, lot 265, and another is illustrated in Helmut Brinker and Albert Lutz, Chinese Cloisonné: The Pierre Uldry Collection, New York, 1989, pl. 323. A censer of similar shape and form, but decorated with mandarin ducks instead of deer, was sold in our London rooms, 12th November 1974, lot 174.

The 'One Hundred Deer' motif was popular during the Ming and Qing dynasties and represented wealth and status, since the word for deer in Chinese was homophonous with the word for emoluments. In addition, the deer and the crane, which also feature prominently on the present lot, were companions of Shoulao, the god of longevity.  Both animals therefore also carry with them wishes for a long life. Crafting the legs of the censers in the shape of cranes not only reinforces the longevity motif, but also displays the mastery of the artisans over their medium. In addition, the pine tree and lingzhi also represent longevity as it was believed that the former could live a very long time, and the latter was believed to revive the dead and have a host of life-prolonging properties. The bats and clouds on the cover represent blessings and good fortune. Every design element on this pair of censers is carefully thought out and filled with symbolic meaning.

Fine Chinese Ceramics & Works of Art

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New York