Sotheby's New York, 7th- 8th April 1988, lot 308.
Sotheby's New York, 28th- 29th September 1989, lot 245.
The present censer has been inspired by Ming prototypes of similar decoration; see one attributed to the Xuande period (1426-35), but with a waisted neck, included in the Special Exhibition of Incense Burners and Perfumers Throughout the Dynasties, National Palace Museum, Taipei, 1994, cat. no. 55. The form derives from ritual bronze ding vessels of the Shang and Zhou periods, but the traditional loop handles and cylindrical legs have been replaced with elephant heads. A related example was sold in our London rooms, 12th May 1989, lot 525; and another of larger size, but cast with a leafy lotus scroll and with the four character mark yu tang qing wan, was sold in these rooms, 12th May 1983, lot 266. For a similar censer attributed to the Ming dynasty, see one sold in our London rooms, 24th April 1987, lot 381.
The elephant (xiang) is a pun for 'sign' and the phrase taiping youxiang ('when there is peace, there are signs') is represented by an elephant carrying a vase on its back. During the Qing dynasty elephants carrying vases on their backs appeared in processions celebrating the emperor's birthday.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.