Luxuriously decorated in gold and silver with meticulously executed designs, the quality and complexity of the present piece surpass most examples of this type, suggesting it was likely used by someone of high status, such as members of the the Han dynasty imperial family. The design on the present censer is extremely rare, and no other examples appear to be published. Compare a related gilt-bronze censer of a slightly compressed form, similarly fashioned with an undecorated raised band around the body interrupted by a pair of ring handles, excavated from the tomb of Liu Sheng, the Prince of Zhongshan of the Western Han dynasty, in Mancheng, Hebei province, published in Institute of Archaeology, CASS, ed., Mancheng Hanmu fajue baogao [Archaeological report of the Han tombs in Mancheng], vol. 2, Beijing, 1980, pl. CLXXVI, fig. 1; and another modeled in a more stout form, in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, published in Ancient Chinese Arts in the Idemitsu Collection, Tokyo, 1989, pl. 204.
See also a related bronze censer with a less elaborate design, from the Western Han dynasty, exhibited in Ancient Chinese and Ordos Bronzes, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1990, cat. no. 44; another with a circular tray, sold in our Hong Kong rooms, 16th November 1973, lot 15; and two illustrated in Ovar Karlbeck, 'Selected Objects from Ancient Shou-Chou', Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, no. 27, Stockholm, 1955, pls 3 and 4.