China; Ming dynasty; Xuan De's reign; 1426-1435 AD
Golden patches are distributed irregularly over the entire surface of the vase. Such a costly manner of decoration was rarely used on big vessels. It required the surface to be covered with an amalgam of gold dust and mercury, during firing the mercury evaporated leaving the gold on the surface. Two handles in the form of serpentine dragons are attached vertically to the neck opposite to each other.
According to legend the bronze vessels made during the reign of Xuan Dea had magical properties so that most of the vessels made in the later Ming dynasty (end 16 beginning 17 c.) bear the signature of this ruler.