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Pilgrim Bottle Vase

Asian Art

The pilgrim flask form was widespread in both time and place and was produced in a variety of media, including Venetian glass, Central Asian leather, and Chinese ceramics. Some have suggested that the round, moon-shaped form originated in the Near East, but no matter what the origin, the various examples bear witness to travel of both people and technologies throughout the diverse cultural landscape of the Silk Route.

This pilgrim bottle vase, boldly decorated with pomegranates, peaches, and other Chinese symbols of prosperity, longevity, and integrity, manifests the development of the once foreign cloisonnee technique during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The technique, which involves constructing a design in metal and filling it with multicolored enamel, was highly developed in the Byzantine Empire in the tenth and eleventh centuries and traveled eastward during the Mongol period.

MEDIUM Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy
  • Place Made: China
  • DATES early 17th century
    DYNASTY Late Ming Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 10 1/4 x 6 11/16 in. (26 x 17 cm)  (show scale)
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 09.657
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Samuel P. Avery
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Pilgrim Bottle Vase, early 17th century. Cloisonné enamel on copper alloy, 10 1/4 x 6 11/16 in. (26 x 17 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Samuel P. Avery, 09.657. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE side, 09.657_side1_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2009
    "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 Pilgrim flask with short foot, globular body and tall, narrow neck. Copper carved with cloisonné enamel. The foot and mouth as well as the handle are rimmed in gilt. Turquoise blue ground with decoration of peaches and pomegranates in red, dark blue, green, and yellow enamels. Loop handle on each side of the neck. One of four pieces in the Avery collection to bear a Jingtai mark, here shown in a gilded panel on the neck just below the mouth rim. According to the catalogue of the Avery collection of Ancient Chinese Cloisonné, Brooklyn 1912, the mark-'Ching-t'ai, 1450-1456, might be apocryphal, in which case the piece might have been made in the K'ang Hsi period, 1662-1722. Although the form of such flasks is found in ceramics of the 15th and 18th centuries, the technique of enameling with tiny spiral wires scattered on a blue background is peculiar to the 17th century. The decorative motifs, the pomegranate, peach, rock, fungus [sic], orchid and narcissus together symbolize prosperity, longevity, and integrity. Condition: chipped in a number of places. April 1959, Catalogue addenda: It is not possible to agree with the dogmatic assertion of the previous cataloguer that the piece must be either Ching T'ai or K'ang Hsi. The Ching T'ai mark has been cut into the cold metal and obviously added some time after the piece was made. It seems unlikely that the piece could be attributed to the period of the mark. It is quite possible, however, to argue that stylistically the object had more in common with the late 16th century than with K'ang Hsi, and thus a 16th or 17th century attribution seems fairer than a definitive date in the Ching T'ai period.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (85%)
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