This flamboyant shape, which combines concave, convex and conical outlines and terminates in a dramatic opening, is one of the most complex and memorable forms created by the Jun kilns prior to the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368). The almost geometric construction of this shape is untypical of a potter’s repertoire, yet not obviously following a metal prototype either. It would have represented a challenge for a craftsman working on the potters’ wheel, but clearly was highly admired at the time, since many different kilns of north China adopted it.
It is an ideal shape to emphasize the attraction of the thick, opaque Jun glaze, which works best on surfaces with clean lines, and its tendency to drain to a contrasting transparent olive tone is here effectively shown off at the rim. Jun ware examples of this finely executed, early type are extremely rare, but this striking form of the garlanded mouth, with its five downward-folded lappets and lobed ridges terminating in sharp points, continued to be employed by the Jun and other kilns well into the Yuan dynasty. Vases of this type then often had added handles, an attached stand and sometimes applied and splashed purple designs, such as the famous large Jun altar vase excavated from a Yuan site in Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo taoci quanji [Complete series on Chinese ceramics], Shanghai, 1999-2000, vol. 10, pl. 205. The present vase might also have served as an altar vessel, although the down-curved lobes at its rim would also have made it a fine utilitarian vessel for pouring liquids.
Many types of flower-shaped rims of lobed, barbed and wavy outline that appear on Song ceramics can be traced to contemporary silver shapes, but the present form is not typical of silver or other metal wares and may rather have originated from forming the soft clay. It may represent an exaggerated form of the more undulating, less sharply defined lotus-leaf mouth popular with Song ceramics that imitates the wavy, curling edges characteristic of large lotus leaves. One metal example, a vase of beaten, gilded copper has, however, been published in a line drawing in Bo Gyllensvärd, ‘T’ang Gold and Silver’, Bulletin of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, no. 29, Stockholm, 1957, fig. 38d. At present, it is difficult to determine where this type of rim might have derived from, but an intriguing illustration of a flower-filled bowl with a related garlanded rim is engraved on a horse-mounting stone at the mausoleum of the second Song Emperor, Renzong (r. 1023-1063), see Bei Song huang ling/The Imperial Tombs of the Northern Song Dynasty, Zhongzhou, 1997, p. 171, fig. 150: 1.
Jun ware was made by many different kilns in Henan – e.g. Hebi, Anyang, Qixian, Jiaxian, Xin’an, Bacun, Yuxian and Linru – and even Hebei – Cizhou and Longhua (see Gugong Bowuyuan cang Zhongguo gudai yaozhi biaoben [Specimens from ancient Chinese kiln sites in the collection of the Palace Museum], vol. 1: Henan juan [Henan volume], Beijing, 2005, and vol. 2: Hebei juan [Hebei volume], Beijing, 2006). While many of these kilns, however, were following the Jun tradition only later, often not before the Yuan dynasty, Yuxian, where a large number of individual kilns were discovered, can be considered as the type site of Jun ware. It developed the archetypal Jun stonewares, which connoisseurs included among the Five Great Wares of the Song (960-1279). A fragment of a very similarly formed mouth of a vase, discovered at Liujiamen, one of the Yuxian Jun kilnsites, is illustrated op.cit., vol. 1, pl. 415.
Preserved Jun vases of this distinctive, well proportioned form, are extremely rare and the only closely related example that appears to have been published is a piece from the collection of Simon Kwan, included in the Min Chiu Society Thirtieth Anniversary Exhibition, Selected Treasures of Chinese Art, Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong, 1990, cat. no. 101, and sold in these rooms, 12th November 2003, lot 50.
The form was popular at many other kilns nearby, mostly in Henan and Hebei provinces: a much smaller Ding vase of related form, in the Dingzhou City Museum of Hebei Province, and a sancai-glazed vase of very similar form and size in the Capital Museum, Beijing, are illustrated, for example, in Zhongguo taoci quanji, op.cit., vol. 9, pls 159 and 227. A monumental painted ‘Cizhou’ vase of this form in the Seattle Art Museum, another sancai example in the Idemitsu Museum of Arts, Tokyo, and a black-glazed vase of similar form with white ribs of slip across the body, are published in Mikami Tsugio, ed., Sekai tōji zenshū/Ceramic Art of the World, vol. 13: Ryō, Kin, Gen/Liao, Chin and Yüan Dynasties, Tokyo, 1981, col. pls 92, 276 and 283. The Seattle vase is illustrated again, together with several other black-and-white painted and green- or yellow-glazed Cizhou versions in Mino Yutaka, Freedom of Clay and Brush through Seven Centuries in Northern China. Tz'u-chou Type Wares, 960 - 1600 AD, Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis, 1980, pls 77, 78 and 96 and figs 206-9 and 279. An unglazed vase of this form, painted with a marble pattern in white slip, from the Eugene Bernat collection and included in the Loan Exhibition, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1947, no. 42, was sold in our New York rooms, 7th November 1980, lot 129.
At other kilns, such as Yaozhou in Shaanxi province or Jingdezhen in Jiangxi, vases with related mouth have a baluster-shaped body with more continuous outlines, see Songdai Yaozhou yaozhi/The Yaozhou Kiln Site of the Song Period, Beijing, 1998, p. 292, fig. 148: 3 and 4; p. 294, fig. 149, col. pl. 8, fig. 3, pl. 77, fig. 6, pl. 78, figs 1 and 2; and Hasebe Gakuji, ed., Sekai tōji zenshū/Ceramic Art of the World, volume 12: Sō/Sung Dynasty, Tokyo, 1977, col. pl. 32.
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