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Creator Nationality: Asian; Southeast Asian; Vietnamese
Creator Name-CRT: Vietnamese
Title: Bowl
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1401
Creation End Date: 1500
Creation Date: 15th Century
Creation Place: Vietnam
Object Type: Decorative Arts and Utilitarian Objects
Classification Term: Ceramics
Materials and Techniques: Stoneware painted with underglaze cobalt blue
Dimensions: H. 2 5/8 in. (6.7 cm); D. 9 5/8 in. (24.4 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1979.097
Credit Line: Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
Context: The history of pottery in Southeast Asia reflects complicated relationships among the ceramics of the region's different countries and peoples, as well as with the ceramics of China to the north. For example, the blue-and-white technology and peony motif of this Vietnamese bowl derive from Chinese prototypes. The evolution of a tradition of stoneware painted with underglaze blue in northern Vietnam during the late 14th or early 15th century is closely tied to the histories of China and Vietnam. It is generally acknowledged that the technology needed to control painting with underglaze cobalt blue on a white porcelain body had been mastered in China by the mid-14th century. The Ming-period Chinese annexation of Vietnam from 1407 to 1428 and the imperial Chinese prohibition of the ceramic trade from 1436 to 1465 spurred the development of the Vietnamese ceramic industry in the 15th century. The introduction of blue-and-white technology is the most noticeable effect of these two historical events and has led to much speculation regarding the possibility of Chinese potters immigrating to Vietnam.

Originally used in Vietnam to replace the underglaze iron decoration common on ceramics made during the 13th and 14th centuries, underglaze cobalt blue quickly became the most common color for painting Vietnamese ceramics. This bowl, however, also has a chocolate-brown slip on its base. Until recently, the covering of the bottom of a ceramic piece in this fashion was considered an exclusively Vietnamese tradition, one that probably began in the 14th century. Examples of ceramics with this type of base, however, have also been found in Thailand.

There is no technical explanation for covering the base of ceramics in this fashion. While the use of this base may be the result of aesthetic taste, it may also have served some practical function. For example, a brown-glazed base may have been employed to differentiate vessels used in religious or other types of ceremonies from those used in more mundane settings. It may also have been a type of potter's mark or a counting symbol. The discovery of Thai as well as Vietnamese ceramics with this distinctive treatment of the base suggests that while the purpose of this device is unclear now, it may have once been widely recognized in Southeast Asia.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 46.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1979.097
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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