Silver inlaid bronze censer of ding form

Silver inlaid bronze censer of ding form

Late Ming to Qing dynasty 17th – 18th century

Height: 5 inches, 12.7 cm
Width: 3 1/2 inches, 8.9 cm

Silver inlaid bronze censer of ding form

A bronze incense burner in the form of an archaic ding vessel, the rounded bowl-shaped body supported on three straight legs. The flat, lipped rim is applied with two U-shaped handles. The exterior is inlaid in fine silver wire with a design of archaistic taotie masks and a wide key-fret pattern to the rim. A single pointed leaf design is applied to each leg.  The vessel has an even bronze patina. The underside of the body is inlaid with a two-character signature, reading Shi Sou. With a hardwood cover and stand: the cover is carved in openwork and has an agate finial, whilst the stand is of triangular shape and incised with a Taiji pattern in the middle. With a Japanese wood box.


The form of this incense burner clearly imitates bronze vesssels of the late Shang (16th century – c. 1046 BC) and early Western Zhou (c. 1046 – 771BC) dynasties.  These vessels, known as ding, were used for cooking and ritual offerings originally. According to Ge Gu Yao Lun (‘Essential Criteria of Antiquities’), which was compiled by Cao Zhao in 1388, archaic bronze vessels were never used as incense burners.  The compactness and portability of ancient bronze tripods of this type enabled them to be used as censers in later periods, particularly in a domestic setting or in the scholars’ studio.[1] The signature Shi Sou might refer to an individual artist or is possibly the name of a very large workshop.[2]   In the present vessel, the delicate inlay of the silver is of fine quality and contrasts well with the patina of the bronze. A very similar bronze censer of ding form and with the Shi Sou mark on the base, slightly larger in size and with comparable taotie decoration in silver inlay, is dated to the 17th to 18th century and is in the collection of the British Museum.[3]   A 17th century bronze tripod vessel from the Carl Cords collection, inlaid with silver and gold, of similar proportions and design, is now in the Arts and Crafts Museum in Frankfurt.[4]  Another 17th century bronze tripod censer inlaid and overlaid with gold and silver, of comparable form and with a hardwood cover with agate finial, is in the Robert E. Kresko collection at the Saint Louis Art Museum.[5]


Provenance: private collection, Japan

1 Mowry, R. Later Chinese Bronzes: The Saint Louis Art Museum and Robert E. Kresko Collections, Saint Louis Art Museum, 2008, p. 57
2 Kerr, R. Later Chinese Bronzes, Bamboo Publishing Ltd., London, 1990, p. 65
3 The British Museum online collection archive, registration number: 1985,1010.1
4 Avitabile, G.G. and Handke E. Das Chinesische Steckenpferd, Die Sammlung Carl Cords, Museum Fur Kunsthandwerk, Frankfurt am Main, 1978, no. 87, p. 37
5 Mowry, R. op. cit. no. 9, pp. 56-61


晚明至清 十七 – 十八世紀 「石叟」錯銀底款
高:12.7 公分 寬:8.9 公分
銅鑄鼎式爐,三足鼎立,雙豎耳。爐身飾以饕餮紋,銅面挑槽臥入銀絲,器底錯銀「石叟」二字款。配有硬木鏤雕圓蓋及瑪瑙蓋鈕,下承三角硬木基座,中央浮雕太極圓。石叟據信為福建福州人,明崇 禎年間著名僧人、冶煉專家和雕塑師,尤以銅錯銀絲技法聞名。大英博物館藏有一件形制與紋飾均極 為相似的銅錯銀鼎式爐,爐底亦錯有「石叟」款,館方定年為十七至十八世紀。來源:日本舊藏