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Deep Bowl


Artwork Details

Deep Bowl
15th century
porcelain with colorless glaze
3 11/16 x 6 3/16 x 6 3/16 in. (9.3 x 15.6 x 15.6 cm);3 3/4 x 6 5/16 x 6 5/16 in. (9.5 x 16 x 16 cm)
Gift of Bruce and Inta Hasenkamp and Museum purchase made possible by Elder and Mrs. Sang-Yong Nam


March 28, 2009
The Joseon dynasty abolished the state-sanctioned Buddhism of the Goryeo rulers and adopted Neo-Confucianism as the official doctrine. The new dynasty’s first great reformer, King Sejong, who reigned from 1419 to 1450, adopted plain white porcelain as the official ware, rejecting the celadon of the previous dynasty. With Neo-Confucianism came a new aesthetic of austerity, frugality, and pragmatism in the decorative arts.
This deep, thinly potted bowl (6) is typical of undecorated white porcelain produced for the Joseon court in the fifteenth century. Early wares such as this bowl are rare today and prized for their fine clay body, soft white color, and clear glaze. The generous volume and well proportioned form of this bowl reflect the Neo-Confucian ideals of the period.
The vast majority of undecorated Joseon porcelains—by one account, as much as ninety-five percent—are everyday dishes and bowls, such as this example (7). Produced at a provincial kiln, this bowl has a flaring mouth and steeply curving sides that taper down to a wide, stable foot. A ring of small scars on the glaze of the interior indicates that the bowl was fired in a stack. Like other bowls produced during the final days of the Joseon dynasty, the vessel walls are thicker, the clay body coarser, and the glaze a deeper blue than the pure white porcelain bowls of the early Joseon period. But true to its Neo-Confucian roots, this bowl retains the simple solid form and functionality of Joseon-period ceramics.
(Label for UMMA Korean Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject Matter:

Bowl for food or drink.

Physical Description:

Deep porcelain bowl with wide foot, fine body, and colorless glaze.

This high-quality white porcelain bowl is presumed to have been produced at official court kilns around Usan-ri, Gwangju-si, Gyeonggido. The well-levigated clay of finest quality was used for this bowl. Sagger was used to protect the bowl during firing to attain its pure white, immaculate surface. Entire foot of the bowl was glazed, and the foot was placed upon a fine white sand support to make the surface as clean as possible. The outer base is enscribed with Chinese character “天" (“Cheon;” sky, heaven)” by scraping off the glaze. The characters “大” (“Dae;” big; great)” and “黃” (“Hwang;” yellow) have been stippled after firing. Finely fused and sintered, this bowl exemplifies the essence of white porcelain made from offical court kilns, which is robust and white as a white jade.
[Korean Collection, University of Michigan Museum of Art (2014) p.158]

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