A Chinese bronze drum-shaped censer raised on three ruyi feet. Each side is cast with four gamboling lion dogs attracted to a large ribboned pearl of wisdom. The background is covered entirely with fine punch work. The base is signed with the mark of probably the most famous of Ming metalworkers, Hu Wenming. 'Hu Wenming was one of the best-known and most accomplished master metalworkers of the late Ming period. Gilt-metal pieces from his workshops were especially sought after by scholars and literati to embellish their desks. (Bonhams)'
It is very difficult to be precise with the dating given the high zinc content of the bronze but I think it is safe to assume it is from the Hu Wenming workshop though perhaps not by the master himself. The distinctive lion masks supporting the rings are an unusual design but these heads also appear on a Hu Wenming censer sold at auction in Hong Kong recently. US$29,500.
Approximately 14.5 cm across the handles, 6.3cm high.
Not in the best of condition as can be seen. Starting at the mouth-rim, there is a small area on the inner rim where there is a casting flaw. Further round there is another flaw resulting in a short meandering crack. The beginning of this crack was once strengthened with a shaped plug, this is now lost. The body has been regularly polished for a good number of years resulting in some loss if definition. If left alone I suspect the body would darken quite quickly. The base is quite thinly cast and now has a piece missing and an adjacent bruise. Thankfully, this just misses the signature.
Please study the photographs.