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Dragon Jar

Asian Art

Whereas earlier Korean potters created wares in gray clay, at the beginning of the Joseon dynasty (1392–1910) white porcelain became the favored material for ceramic production. Tablewares for the Joseon imperial court were produced at Gwangju, in Gyeonggi province. To ensure a sufficient supply of firewood, the site of the kiln was relocated every ten years. The strict moral codes of Confucianism were often reflected in the artistic production of the times, particularly in the taste for simple forms and decoration. The white color of Joseon porcelain ideally satisfied this aesthetic.

The brown decoration on Brooklyn's dragon jar is iron oxide painted directly on the porcelain and then covered with a clear glaze. The dragon image functioned to protect the food inside the vessel from evil spirits as well as to attract good fortune for its owner. The dynamic diamond-shaped profile of the jar results from forming the top and bottom halves separately on the potter's wheel and then joining them rim-to-rim.
MEDIUM Porcelain with iron-painted decoration under clear glaze
  • Place Made: Korea
  • DATES mid 17th century
    DYNASTY Joseon Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 12 3/8 x 14 5/8in. (31.4 x 37.1cm) Diameter at mouth: 4 3/4 in. (12 cm) Diameter at base: 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Asian Art Council
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Dragon Jar, mid 17th century. Porcelain with iron-painted decoration under clear glaze, 12 3/8 x 14 5/8in. (31.4 x 37.1cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Asian Art Council, 86.139. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE overall, 86.139_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION From "Korean Art Collection in the Brooklyn Museum" catalogue: The dragons that adorn seventeenth-century Joseon porcelain jars were conceived more as comical figures than the more traditional, sublime dragons that symbolized royalty. The political and economic instability of the period, caused by the Ming-Qing transition in China, affected the import of cobalt blue pigment from the continent, eventually leading Joseon potters to use iron oxide. The dragon decorating the surface of this jar has protruding round eyes and a wide-open mouth that suggest innocence and naiveté rather than furiousness. The limbless dragon, flying among the clouds, is depicted in an extremely simple manner with just a few strokes of the brush. There are a lot of impurities in the clay of the body, which is coated with a light gray glaze. It is a fine work of art that exhibits the distinctive characteristics of seventeenth century porcelain jars decorated with dragon designs in underglaze iron.
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