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Large 19th c Bronze Handwarmer with Reticulated Cover (LQB061402)
Mid - late Qing Dynasty
Diameter: 27.9 cm / 11 in (at widest point)
Height: 28 cm / 11 in (handle extended upright), 16 cm / 6.3 in (handle down)
Weight: 9 lb 15 oz / 4.5 kg
From a Seattle, WA estate
A rare and unusually large 19th c bronze handwarmer or incense burner, with a circular ribbed body, leather covered handles, and a magnificent reticulated cover featuring a frontal dragon with splayed limbs, flying amongst cloud scrolls. The side of the cover feature pierced latticework of repeated wan symbols. Constructed entirely of solid bronze, this piece weighs 4.5 kg.
This handwarmer is of an especially fine quality, and most likely belonged to the estate of a Manchu prince or noble. During harsh northern winters, heated coal would have been placed within, allowing heat to escape from the openwork cover. Due to its large size, this particular handwarmer would have been placed on a table. Or, if the owner was outdoors on a walk, a servant would have carried it along by holding onto the leather-covered handle.
The entirety of this piece was designed to connote auspicious wishes. The ribbed, bulging body mirrors the shape of melons, which symbolizes fertility and abundance (for it grows on vines and have a large number of seeds). The butterflies ('fu') at the base of the handle is a homonym for fortune (also 'fu'). The lattice work seen on the side of the cover are repeated wan symbols, which means "ten thousand" in Chinese and represents longevity. Finally, the dragon seen on the top of the cover, with the front position and splayed limbs, is of a design frequently seen in imperial art. Its position amongst clouds, with a left foot grasping a mountain peak, is representative of imperial power and its dominion over "mountains and seas". Dragons flying over mountains, seas, or clouds were also understood to be auspicious beings with life-giving powers.
A bronze handwarmer with the same wan latticework cover, measure also at 11 inches wide, sold in 2012 for $11,250 at Christie's New York (lot 1297 sale 2580).
Condition: In great antique condition. The leather covering the handle appears to be over 100 years and is beginning to break at the extremities. The reticulated cover has a section with the latticework knocked/dented inward (see pictures). The body has a dent and a small square area where a separate piece of bronze has been joined in (see pictures). [Please examine all photos carefully, as they are part of the condition report.]