Object: Ewer

918-1392: Koryo (or Korai or Goryeo) Period
Materials: Porcelain, celadon glaze

This object is an ewer or vase-like pitcher, which has been dated from the 12th century. The ewer is gourd-shaped (characteristic of the Koryo period) and has a low foot, flared spout and a double rope handle. Human-like figures and bunches of grapes and vines adorn the vase. These figures are done in black and white slip, which contrast against the greenish gray color of the celadon glaze. Prior to the Koryo period, pottery and ceramics in Korea were unglazed. During the Koryo period Korean artists began adding glaze, which provide a smooth, glassy appearance.  Celadon, like that found on this ewer from the Sam Noble Museum, is a type of semi-transparent glaze that originated in China. Korean artists in the Koryo period perfected the craft of celadon production, popularizing inlaid celadon. To create inlaid celadon, artists would use black or white slip to create a design on the piece before glazing. This was a distinctly different practice from the traditional Chinese method.

Celadon glaze can produce a variety of colors such as white, yellow, gray or blue. The color of the glaze depends on the glaze’s composition, the thickness or how many layers are applied, as well as the type of clay the glaze is applied to. However, the most sought after color by artists and collectors is a pale green similar to jade. The green color is achieved during the firing process. The iron oxide in the glaze or the clay will change colors in an oxygen-restricted kiln. As glaze can often defect during the firing process, crazing or crackling can occur. Depending on the nature of the crackling in each specimen, the result is sometimes desirable.

For more information see:
Brandt, Kim
2000   Objects of Desire: Japanese Collectors and Colonial Korea. Positions 8(3): 711-747.
Lee, Soyoung
2003    Goryeo Celadon. In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000
[Chelsea Pierce]

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Ethnology @ SNOMNH is an experimental weblog for sharing the collections of the Division of Ethnology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.


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