OBJECT OF THE MONTH – MARCH
#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.