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Ewer with Cover

Asian Art

Celadon ceramics of the Goryeo dynasty (918–1392) are among the most celebrated works of Korean art. Their luminous green color is the result of iron in both the clay and the glaze oxidizing in a reduction kiln.

The Brooklyn ewer is a world-famous piece, celebrated for its dynamic naturalistic form, superb glaze color, and meticulous detailing. Few surviving Korean celadons can boast such elaborate and delicate carving. The body, lid, and knob of the ewer are all in the form of lotuses, and the handle is a lotus stalk tied at the top with reeds. The cover and handle were originally joined by a chain, now marked by two loops, which are placed where a gold-painted butterfly on the cover would have connected with the insect's pupa on the handle, both modeled in delicate relief. Dots of white slip accentuate the ornamental motifs, while glaze pools in the deeper carving to create a range of tones on the surface.
MEDIUM Stoneware with underglaze slip decoration and celadon glaze
  • Place Made: Korea
  • DATES first half of the 12th century
    DYNASTY Goryeo Dynasty
    DIMENSIONS 9 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (25.1 x 24.1 x 14 cm)  (show scale)
    MARKINGS None
    SIGNATURE Unsigned
    INSCRIPTIONS None
    COLLECTIONS Asian Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 56.138.1a-b
    CREDIT LINE Gift of Mrs. Darwin R. James III
    RIGHTS STATEMENT Creative Commons-BY
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    CAPTION Ewer with Cover, first half of the 12th century. Stoneware with underglaze slip decoration and celadon glaze, 9 7/8 x 9 1/2 x 5 1/2 in. (25.1 x 24.1 x 14 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Mrs. Darwin R. James III, 56.138.1a-b. Creative Commons-BY
    IMAGE detail, 56.138.1a-b_detail.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 lotiform body is carved with a design of overlapping lotus petals framing leaf sprays. A pulled handle in the form of a lotus stalk is elegantly tied at the top with reeds. The cover is in the shape of an inverted lotus blossom, while the knob of the lid re-creates a lotus bud just beginning to unfurl. The cover and handle were originally joined by a chain, now marked by two loops, which are placed where a butterfly sitting on the cover would have connected with the insect's pupa on the handle. Dots of white slip accentuate the ornamental motifs. This decorative technique marks the earliest celadon wares of the twelfth century, just prior to the development of the slip inlay technique. This ewer's body is in the shape of a lotus blossom. The flower petals are arranged in four tiers, and carved in relief while the veins on the flower petals are incised. The band of lotus petals contains a honeysuckle design further embellished with dots in white slip. The lid is also decorated with three tiers of lotus petals with white slip coating, relief carving, and incision. The knob on the lid takes the shape of a lotus bud, which is accompanied by a butterfly made of white clay. Uniquely, the butterfly forms a pair with the triangular lotus leaf attached to the handle of the body. The butterfly appliqué is attached to a ring by which the ewer would have been connected to its matching cover. The shapes of the spout, handle, and foot are derived from a bamboo motif and sumptuously decorated by the techniques of incision, slip coating, and appliqué. The absence of the Goryeo dynasty's unique inlay technique shows that the ewer was made in the mid-twelfth century. The highly refined clay body and glazing, use of silica for kiln stacking, general figure of the ewer, and the various techniques used for decoration make it a truly fine work of art.
    RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (94%)
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