1560s-1620s, late 16th – early 17th century
Wanli period, Ming dynasty
Porcelain with underglae cobalt blue
H: 37.3 cm / 14.7 in (with stand); 35.5 cm / 14 in (without stand)
W: 16 cm / 6.3 in
From a Northern California private collection
An extremely rare, museum-quality late Ming blue and white incense stand or vase, of unusual reticulated form, with a circular cupped rim and neck above a square-sectioned body, the curving walls partially undercut and painted with cloud collar lappets above elongated leaves on each corner that frame a cash-shaped roundel to the center.
Reticulated / open-work porcelains usually appear in the form of small bowls and cups. Large objects such as this vessel would have been extremely hard to fire, as the weakened open-work body was aptly to collapse or warp in the kiln. This vase-stand did in fact warp in the kiln due to its large size, and stands slightly lopsided. To solve this problem, a previous collector had a custom wood stand with a tilted base made, so that when the vase is placed on its stand, it appears to stand straight.
According to British Museum curator Jessica Harrison-Hall, reticulated vase-stands such as this were most likely made to hold incense; its pierced, open-work shape would have allowed incense smoke/fragrance to leak out its body and permeate throughout a room. The base of this vase-stand still carries traces of mortar; it’s likely that it was once attached to a regional temple or monastery, and was hacked-off and sold during the decades of unrest following the collapse of the Qing dynasty.
This piece is thickly potted and quite heavy, and is covered with bright / luminous glaze.
For a Ming Longquan reticulated incense stand, see British Museum Franks.1666. For an earlier blue and white reticulated vessel, see Christie’s Sale 7084 Lot 9.
Condition report: there’s a 6 cm by 6 cm area of old Japanese gold lacquer repair to body (see photos). Various original manufacturing flaws include pinholes, glaze fritting to edges, slight natural crazing to glaze, and some firing stress cracks to the interior. Overall, vase appears in good condition and displays very well. (The wood stand has one age crack.)