Duck Censer

Object nr. 605 China, Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) Height: 28.5 cm | Length: 21 cm

Mr F. Dony Collection, The Netherlands

Condition Report available

€ 6,500

This object can be viewed in our gallery.

Additional Information


Bronze is an alloy of copper, tin, and a small amount of lead. Its appearance signalled the advancement in human culture from the Stone Age to the Bronze Age. For the approximately 2,000 years between the 17th century B.C. up until the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-200 A.D.), the Chinese people used rare and precious bronze to cast large quantities of ritual vessels, musical instruments, and weapons that were elegant in form, finely decorated, and clearly inscribed with Chinese characters. They affirm the artistic achievement of ancient China, and demonstrate how early Chinese used their ingenuity to create works incorporating both science and art from resources in nature.

The techniques used in executing the various bronze designs went from the engraved lines and embossed designs used in the earlier periods, to deep relief and three dimensional sculpture-like designs, and eventually even to inlaid designs. Materials used for inlaid work included gold, silver, copper, and turquoise. Subject matter for inlaid work included animals, along with interlocking geometrical shapes based on straight lines, diagonal lines, and whorled lines. These were all added purely for decorative purposes, and were intricately and handsomely crafted.

Over the millennia, bronze articles exposed to high humidity or buried underground undergo a natural change in which they develop a bright and beautiful coating, or patina. The patina serves to protect the metal underneath from further damage. The colour itself, however, which may range from rouge red to emerald green to sapphire blue, imparts added beauty and elegance to the vessel. Chinese are particularly fond of this colourful coating, and preserve it intact.

In the Republic of China today, the beauty of traditional bronze art is still to be found in incense burners and sacrificial vessels in temples, in statues on display in schools, or in decorative pieces in homes; all have been influenced by the art of China's ancient bronzes. Free application of traditional bronze designs has become an indispensable element of modern architecture, apparel, and furniture design. This is one way that the brilliance and artistry of the early Chinese continue their everlasting shine into the lives of Chinese today and of the future.

Floris van der Ven