Tripod Censer, 12th-13th century, Jin dynasty. Stoneware with black glaze and silver « oil-spot » markings in overglaze iron oxide, 5 9/16 x 7 x 7 in. (14.13 x 17.78 x 17.78 cm). Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton, 2002.5. Minneapolis Institute of Arts © 2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
With renewed antiquarian studies during the Northern Song dynasty (960-1127), ancient bronze shapes including Ding tripods began to be appropriated as incense burners. Furthermore, new censers in bronze and glazed ceramic, were now commissioned in the ancient styles.
Appearing black, the dark-brown glaze covering the interior and exterior of this cauldron is suffused throughout with silvery « oil-spot » markings. The « oil-spot » effect was achieved by the application of iron-rich solutions to the glaze in a way that resulted in super-saturated iron compounds collecting into the desired silvery spots.
This rare « oil-spot » censer is apparently unique. Technical characteristics indicate that it probably comes from kilns near T’zu-po in Shandong province. Its dating has been confirmed with a thermoluminescent test.