Chinese tripod censer

Contributed by Birmingham Museums

Chinese tripod censer

Our appreciation of objects is a strange and variable history in itself. The celadon glazed wares from the kilns of Longquan are among the finest products of Song dynasty ceramics. The thick, semi-transparent and unctuous soft green glaze, which coats this censer, was highly prized in China, but perhaps even more so in neighbouring Japan, where the glaze had a major influence on the development of Japanese ceramics. Many such Song vessels were eagerly sought after by Japanese collectors and still remain in Japanese collections. This piece has been embellished with a pierced and chased silver cover, made in Japan in the early nineteenth century, which suggests that this piece also formed a treasured object in a Japanese collection before it was purchased in the 1870s for Birmingham. At that time, the museum was specifically acquiring examples of Japanese metalwork as a design model for Birmingham industry. This is the only piece of Chinese ceramic in the museum's founding collections, and it is likely that we bought this fabulous object for its cover, rather than as an example of Chinese artistic achievement.

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Longquan, China

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