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Ewer with lotus-shaped lid
Place of Origin: Korea
Date: approx. 1050-1150
Historical Period: Goryeo dynasty (918-1392)
Materials: Stoneware with celadon glaze
Dimensions: H. 9 5/8 in x Diam. 6 1/2 in, H. 24.4 cm x Diam. 16.5 cm
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Korean Art
Collection: Ceramics
Object Number: B60P123+.a-.b
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 21

Description

Label:

Collectors’ Legacy

This ewer was donated by Avery Brundage (1887–1975). Prior to being in Brundage’s collection, it was in the collection of Mayuyama Matsutarou (1882–1935) in Japan. Even before entering the museum’s collection, it had been extolled for its rarity, high quality, and exquisite beauty. This ewer is almost identical to one owned by the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, though the knob of this ewer, lower and simpler in form, is a modern repair.

The perfect celadon color and excellent form of both ewers indicate that they were made in a similar period, when a set of celadon wares was created to be buried in the tomb of King Injong (1109–1146). The set and the two ewers exemplify the finest Goryeo celadon wares.

“Best under Heaven”

This ewer from the Goryeo dynasty exemplifies celadon ware at its finest level of production. The cylindrical body, the sharp-angled flat shoulder, and the looping, flat handle accented with a crisp outline indicate that it took its shape from a metal prototype. The intricate lid, in the form of a double lotus, makes an effective contrast to the simple, unadorned body. This work was certainly made for the upper class or for the court. A contemporary Chinese connoisseur compiled a list of objects that were considered the most highly valued at the time. Under the category of celadon, he wrote that the exceptional color of Goryeo celadon was the “best under heaven.”

Enchanting Hues

The blue-green surface of this ewer is lustrous—its hue was derived from the purest clay, perfect firing environment, and thin, transparent application of glaze. The glaze covers the bottom of the base and inside of the ewer body, signifying that it was fired with extreme care. The clean foot ring and even application of glaze all over its surfaces imply that the artisans placed the ewer on its own in a single sagger when it was fired. (A sagger is a boxlike clay container that protects the ceramic during firing and was used to fire precious ceramics of high quality.) This specific, rare celadon color differs from works produced by different firing methods and environments. The contrast is noticeable when the ewer is compared to celadon works in neighboring display cases, as well as to the shards in the photograph.


More Information

Exhibition History: "Koryo Celadon", Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 10/10/1992 - 11/29/1992

"Korean Art Collections in the United States", National Museum of Korea, June 4-August 5, 2012

"Gorgeous", Asian Art Museum, 6/20/2014 - 9/14/2014
Additional Label:

If we often associate the gorgeous with the extreme and the over-the-top, then how about extreme restraint nd over-the-top subtlety?

Several things about this vessel are worth special attention. Its deep, lustrous gray-green glaze, very difficult to produce so flawlessly, was admired for its resemblance to jade. Then there's the almost architectural precision of the vessel's main forms with their sharp angles that call to mind the creases of metalwork more than the flowing contours of most ceramics. Finally, the plainness of the body of the ewer erupts like a skyrocket into a starburst of ornament at the top.

- FMcG ("Gorgeous" exhibition)


Label:

Collectors’ Legacy

This ewer was donated by Avery Brundage (1887–1975). Prior to being in Brundage’s collection, it was in the collection of Mayuyama Matsutarou (1882–1935) in Japan. Even before entering the museum’s collection, it had been extolled for its rarity, high quality, and exquisite beauty. This ewer is almost identical to one owned by the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, though the knob of this ewer, lower and simpler in form, is a modern repair.

The perfect celadon color and excellent form of both ewers indicate that they were made in a similar period, when a set of celadon wares was created to be buried in the tomb of King Injong (1109–1146). The set and the two ewers exemplify the finest Goryeo celadon wares.

“Best under Heaven”

This ewer from the Goryeo dynasty exemplifies celadon ware at its finest level of production. The cylindrical body, the sharp-angled flat shoulder, and the looping, flat handle accented with a crisp outline indicate that it took its shape from a metal prototype. The intricate lid, in the form of a double lotus, makes an effective contrast to the simple, unadorned body. This work was certainly made for the upper class or for the court. A contemporary Chinese connoisseur compiled a list of objects that were considered the most highly valued at the time. Under the category of celadon, he wrote that the exceptional color of Goryeo celadon was the “best under heaven.”

Enchanting Hues

The blue-green surface of this ewer is lustrous—its hue was derived from the purest clay, perfect firing environment, and thin, transparent application of glaze. The glaze covers the bottom of the base and inside of the ewer body, signifying that it was fired with extreme care. The clean foot ring and even application of glaze all over its surfaces imply that the artisans placed the ewer on its own in a single sagger when it was fired. (A sagger is a boxlike clay container that protects the ceramic during firing and was used to fire precious ceramics of high quality.) This specific, rare celadon color differs from works produced by different firing methods and environments. The contrast is noticeable when the ewer is compared to celadon works in neighboring display cases, as well as to the shards in the photograph.


Exhibition History: "Koryo Celadon", Museum of Oriental Ceramics, Osaka, 10/10/1992 - 11/29/1992

"Korean Art Collections in the United States", National Museum of Korea, June 4-August 5, 2012

"Gorgeous", Asian Art Museum, 6/20/2014 - 9/14/2014
Expanded Label:

If we often associate the gorgeous with the extreme and the over-the-top, then how about extreme restraint nd over-the-top subtlety?

Several things about this vessel are worth special attention. Its deep, lustrous gray-green glaze, very difficult to produce so flawlessly, was admired for its resemblance to jade. Then there's the almost architectural precision of the vessel's main forms with their sharp angles that call to mind the creases of metalwork more than the flowing contours of most ceramics. Finally, the plainness of the body of the ewer erupts like a skyrocket into a starburst of ornament at the top.

- FMcG ("Gorgeous" exhibition)


Resources:

Video:  First Under Heaven: Korean Celadons in the Goryeo Dynasty (Part 1 of 2): http://youtu.be/KhNvLHdi2L
Video:  First Under Heaven: Korean Celadons in the Goryeo Dynasty (Part 2 of 2): http://youtu.be/OI-lKdIGOhc

Hyonjeong Kim Han, Curator of Korean art at the Asian Art Museum, discusses Goryeo dynasty celadons in the Asian Art Museum's collection. A lecture presented by the Society for Asian Art on March 13, 2015.