A rare heavily-cast silver-inlaid bronze tripod censer and cover, bearing a lengthy cast inscription to the legs which includes a date for the first year of Xuande (1426) and the makers name Shishou,
20 inches high
The body of the tripod vessel cast in the form of an archaic, each wide rounded leg with a raised double band chevron rising to the widest point of the body dividing triangular bosses where the upper legs join the neck, two L-shaped handles rising from the neck, the entire body densely inlaid in silver with a tightly scrolling leafy foliate design, the cover with a seated qilin looking over its back and surrounded by high-relief waves, further silver inlay, the cover pierced to allow incense to rise from the vessel through the qilin’s mouth.
The inscriptions which are cast in six lines down the inside edges of the legs read:
Da Ming Xuande / Yuan Nian Ji Qui
Late autumn 1st rear of Xuande (1426)
Xia Yuan Gong Bu / Chen Wu Bang Zuo
20-30th days of the month Industry Department / Wu Bang Zuo (Shishou real name) subject of the king
Wu Jin Zhi Zhao / Shi Shou Bao Ding
The metal (wu jin) made by Shishou : Treasured Ding
For a Ming bronze censer of qilin form similarly-styled to the cover of our example, see Sotheby’s New York, 17 September 1998, lot 156. For a bombe form bronze censer of smaller size and similarly inlaid with stylized blooms, see Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 2 May 1995, lot 210. For a compressed form bronze censer of smaller size similarly inlaid with stylized blooms and bearing a “nei zao” (made for the inner Palace) mark on the base interior, see Sotheby’s Hong Kong, 29 April 1992, lot 276. For a similarly-shaped archaistic liding of similar tri-lobed form dating to the 12th/14th century, see Christie’s, 14/15th September2009, lot 252. For a large bombe censer with similar inlaid wired decoration dated 17th century and bearing a Xuande seal mark, see Sotheby’s, New York, 28/29th November 1994, lot 187.