Incense burner or censer

Incense burner or censer, c. 1750-1800
Attribution unknown
Copper, enamels
RC398
© Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum

Yellow Room 

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Incense burner or censer, c. 1750-1800

Mounted on a tripod stand, this Chinese enamelled incense burner has an openwork sphere of bats in clouds. Rainbow-coloured clouds symbolise the blessing of rain. The Chinese words for ‘bat’, fu, and ‘cloud’, yun, sound the same as words for ‘good fortune’ and for ‘come round’: so, this object wishes us well. The burner on the base of the stand is now missing.

The history of Chinese incense burners can be traced back to the Warring States period (475 BCE to 221 BCE), during which copper or ceramic incense burners first appeared. By the Tang dynasty (618–690, 705–907), incense burners had become essential items in daily life, available in various materials such as silver, copper, iron, and porcelain. Copper incense burners are the most common due to their excellent corrosion resistance and thermal conductivity, ensuring the preservation of colour and shape over time.

 

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