distinctive form of this bronze vase exemplifies Ming transition in its preference
for flowing contours rather than intricate ornamentation. Thus the side handles
are ingeniously designed as realistically modeled elephant heads with drooping
ears, tusks crossed at the front and the trunks descending in graceful curves
to the foot of the vase. The body of the piece bears a smooth, dark patina mottled
with deep red oxidation. Hand-chased borders enclose a geometrical pattern that
circles the vase and joins the elephant motifs.
vessels were used in rituals and ceremonies in veneration of the ancestors. The
number and size of vessels a person owned reflected their wealth and status. Although
not a classic ritual vessel shape, bronzes similar in form to this one are sometimes
described as holders for incense sticks or as holders for divination sticks. !
It may also have been used to hold wine.