An extremely rare cloisonné enamel rectangular censer and cover, fangding  Wanli six-character mark
Lot 98
An important and extremely rare cloisonné enamel rectangular censer and cover, fangding Wanli six-character mark and of the period
Sold for £192,000 (US$ 310,811) inc. premium

Lot Details
The Property of a Gentleman
An important and extremely rare cloisonné enamel rectangular censer and cover, fangding
Wanli six-character mark and of the period
Of archaistic fangding form, brilliantly enamelled on the longer sides with a central stylised shou medallion flanked by wan symbols and two writhing dragons amidst trailing clouds, the shorter sides with a double-crescent halberd flanked by carp and a pair of camellia flowers, the underside enamelled in red with the six-character mark within a plaque, enclosed on a turquoise ground enamelled with lotus flowers and flamescroll cloisons, the openwork lid with two writhing long-bodied dragons separated by an elaborate flaming pearl finial, all supported on four cabriole legs emanating from intricate lion-masks (enamelling retouched in small areas).
33cm (13in) wide. (2).

Footnotes

  • Provenance: Sir Basil Gould CMG., CIE. (1883-1957), thence by descent to the current owner.

    Wanli mark and period cloisonné vessels of this large size are extremely rare, and are only found in a select number of museum and private collections.

    For a similar example of a Wanli period incense burner of fangding form in the Palace Museum, Beijing, see Metal-Bodied Enamel Ware: The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, p.53, pl.51 (fig.2). It is much smaller (23.5cm high) than the current example, and the original Wanli mark has been replaced by a Jingtai mark. Another smaller example of this type, but with a replacement cover, was sold at Sotheby's New York, 18 September 2007, lot 136. A censer of similar size from the McLaren collection, also with a replacement cover, was sold at Sotheby's London, 16 June 1999, lot 720.

    See Garner, Chinese and Japanese Cloisonné Enamels, p.67, and pls.47a and b, for a small box and cover with similar shou medallions from the collection of Sir Percival David, now in the collection of Pierre Uldry, included in the exhibition Chinesisches Cloisonné, Museum Rietberg, Zurich, 1985, cat. no. 112; and Garner, op. cit., pl.47c, for a dish, both with a six-character mark within a rectangular panel on a 'cloud swirl' ground similar to the present piece. A large foliate-rim charger, with similar six-character Wanli mark to the current example was sold at Christie's Hong Kong, 30 May 2005, lot 1267.

    Sir Basil Gould was a highly successful career diplomat, serving as Political Officer for Sikkim, Bhutan and Tibet. In 1936, he led the British Mission to Lhasa, at a time when the British Raj was keen to cement their influence over that vast autonomous area. He was highly sympathetic to the Tibetan people and their culture and conversant with the highly complex formalities observed by the upper echelons of Tibetan society. He was pleased to be referred to as Lonchen – equating his rank with that of a Tibetan prime minister, and indeed this photograph (fig.2) of him dining with the Tibetan prime minister, Lonchen Langdun, in the Dekyi Lingka in 1936 highlights the extent to which he dealt with the Tibetan elite on an equal footing. It is likely that this magnificent censer was acquired or presented to him during his stay in Lhasa.
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