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Berwald Oriental Art

Blue Glazed Pottery Tripod Jar and Cover (Fu)
Tang dynasty, late 7th – early 8th century
Gongxian, Henan Province
Height: 9 ½ in, 24 cm

This remarkable jar, still retaining its original cover, represents the highest achievement of the Tang potters of the early eighth century. In their hands one of the oldest and most traditional of Chinese forms, the tripod jar, first seen in Neolithic pottery and then in archaic bronzes, is transformed into the elegant and sophisticated globular vessel resting here on three legs molded with stylized animal heads and lion paw feet.

The importance of this vessel is further enhanced by the lavish use of solid blue, the rarest and costliest glaze, for the ground. A group of four amber and cream dots and splashes highlight the domed cover, matching the glazes used to highlight the deeply molded appliqués on the body.

While the form is traditional, the appliqués are derived from exotic Persian designs. The curved shoulder is set with four evenly spaced heart shaped palmettes, above a raised rib, interspersed with four leaping lions applied to the high walled body.

Cross cultural pieces such as this were extremely desirable. The combination of Chinese traditional forms, foreign decoration and bold glaze techniques exemplify the unique artistry of the Chinese potters at the height of the Tang dynasty.

The alternating pattern of the leaping lions, expressive of power and nobility, and heart-shaped palmettes stems from traditional motifs found on Persian and Central Asian textiles. Textiles were very important in the propagation of designs to China owing to their ease of transportation. Specifically these designs are known for their symmetry, enclosed designs, and heraldic poses. These motifs made their way east via Sogdian textiles along the Silk Route as may be seen in examples found at Panjikent. During the Tang dynasty the silk and cotton textile industries were virtually run by the Hu, a term applied to all non Han Chinese. In the capital city of Chang’an, several textile shops specialized in western patterns in order to accommodate the fierce demand for exotic material.

Condition: Two rim chips restored and consolidated, one leg restuck with section of upper leg rebuilt, blue glaze flakes to lower section of jar consolidated.

Similar Examples:

Sancai and Blue-Glazed without cover. Regina Krahl, Chinese Ceramics in the Meiyintang Collection, vol 3 (i),
London, 2006, p. 263, no. 1286.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sancai without cover. Illustrated in Suzanne Valenstein, The Herzman Collection,
New York, 1992, p. 18, no. 7.

Idemitsu Bijutsukan Tokyo. Brown glazed with lions and elephants and without cover. Illustrated in William Watson,
Tang and Liao Ceramics, London, 1984, p. 54, no. 30.

all text, images Berwald Oriental Art


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