A gilt-splashed bronze incense burner

18th century

The naturistically cast peach-shaped censer is supported on a network of branches and leaves. The dark brown body is evenly applied with gilt splashes. The base is cast with a two-character Xuande seal mark.

13.5 cm wide

 

Provenance:

A Belgian private collection

 

The origins of the splashing of gold on bronzes are obscure. Since a very large number of early gold-splashed bronzes are related to Xuande ritual vessels we may assume that the enormous popularity of this type of surface decoration was influenced by Xuande originals. The reason for the sudden introduction of this decorative technique remains speculative.

It has been suggested that it was a direct result of archaism, and that the splashing of gold on original archaic bronze vessels or even the appearance of gold splashes resulting from uneven patination as viewed by later connoisseurs was its origin.

Apart from shapes imitating archaic bronzes, other shapes, usually with a cover, can be found such as those of peach and finger citron. The peach, as the emblem of longevity, is of paramount importance in Chinese culture and is one of the most popular motifs found in art. It is the symbol of the venerable God of Longevity, Shoulao.


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