Brûle-parfum (xianglu 香爐)
Entre 1600 et 1644
Bronze, Fonte à la cire perdue, Dorure
Legs : Cernuschi, Henri
Mark in relief in a cartouche, recessed, inside the foot: 大明宣德年製 [“Made in the Xuande period of the Ming”] This type of vessel appears to have emerged in the 17th century: oval in shape, decorated with fantastical marine beasts – here a dragon – it very often has an apocryphal inscription from the Xuande reign – which is the case here. A specimen has been found in a tomb dated 1675, near Beijing; it is simpler and less ornate than this incense burner in the Cernuschi collection.
According to Philip K. Hu, incense burners of varying quality were made in the same period, but also over a relatively long period (Saint-Louis Art Museum and Robert E. Kresko Collection, St. Louis); this model continued to be produced until the 20th century. In a photograph taken by Felice Beato in Yokohama, in the late 1860s, an incense burner of this type can be seen in a tourist shop.
The Cernuschi collection piece is of high quality. It may be a little older than the one in the Kresko collection, which is only partially gilded; some of these vessels, probably those made in the 19th century, are heavily decorated and have been incorrectly attributed to the Xuande period. The handles are very similar to those of another incense burner, probably the work of Hu Wenming and dated to the late Ming (former Garner collection). Whorl motifs were very fashionable in the first half of the 17th century, particularly during the Tianqi reign (r. 1620-1627), especially in polychrome ceramics.
Michel Maucuer, Bronzes de la Chine impériale des Song au Qing, Paris Musées, 2013, p. 131