Incense burner


Not on view

The form and décor of this remarkable incense burner are inspired by tripods of the late Shang (ca. 1600–ca. 1046 B.C.) and early Zhou (ca. 1046–256 BC) dynasty, but unlike its precursors, which were used as food containers, this vessel functioned as an incense burner. The piece has a generous bulbous body that sits on three stout legs. Encircling the vessel mouth is a band of décor featuring three stylized animal masks that stand in shallow relief above a dense ground of spirals—motifs loosely inspired by archaic bronzes. A circular medallion decorates the bottom of the vessel bowl between the three legs. The medallion consists of six concentric circles filled with vegetal scrolls, geometric patterns, and the eight trigrams used in Daoist divination. In contrast to the archaistic style of the animal masks, the medallion reflects the influence of contemporary bronze mirrors. Another departure from archaic models is the prominent twenty-eight character inscription in standard script cast into the lower part of the vessel bell. It reads: [Daoist] Householder Yin Wenju from Xiangxiang Prefecture offered this incense burner for eternal use as an altarpiece on an auspicious day in the sixth lunar month of the bingxu year of the Zhizheng reign [1346]
湘鄉州居信士尹文擧捨香爐永充陳希寳應緣者至正丙戌六月吉日. The surface of the incense burner has a warm brownish patina that bears no trace of being buried.

Incense burner, Bronze, China

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