OBJECT OF THE MONTH – MARCH

Cloisonné tripod incense-burner, gilded copper alloy and polychrome enamel inlays, Jingtai mark and reign (1450-56) of the early Ming period, Nanjing Museum

Cloisonné tripod incense-burner, gilded copper alloy and polychrome enamel inlays, Jingtai mark and reign (1450-56) of the early Ming period, Nanjing Museum

#secretsMW: A glimpse behind-the-scenes of Ming: The Golden Empire

The body of this cloisonné tripod incense-burner is decorated with magnificent lions while the legs take the form of great, golden-tusked elephant heads. Both lions and elephants feature in Buddhist folklore and symbolism. It is therefore thought that this incense-burner may have been intended for use on a Buddhist altar. 

The vivid design which covers the vessel was created using a decorative technique known as ‘cloisonné’. Cloisonné (from the French cloisons meaning partitions) reached China from the Middle East during the Mongol ruled Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). The technique involves creating a decorative pattern with wire outlines on a metal surface. These partitions are then filled with powdered enamels and fused to the metal by firing. Cloisonné was favoured for use in imperial contexts and religious settings, such as Buddhist temples. 

This photograph was taken behind-the-scenes of Ming: The Golden Empire during its first European tour. The object had just completed its journey from Nanjing and was being prepared for display.

Discover this Ming-dynasty masterpiece in our exhibition Ming: The Golden Empire, which will be presented at the Caixa Forums of Barcelona, Palma and Zaragoza in 2016 and 2017. The exhibition is available for hire from Autumn 2017. To view the full exhibition book please contact us at info@nomadexhibitions.com.

David Roberts