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Shallow Bowl with Litchi and Chrysanthemum Design


Artwork Details

Shallow Bowl with Litchi and Chrysanthemum Design
14th century
stoneware with inlaid decoration under celadon glaze
3 3/16 x 8 x 8 in. (8 x 20.2 x 20.2 cm)
Gift of Bruce and Inta Hasenkamp and Museum purchase made possible by Elder and Mrs. Sang-Yong Nam

On Display

Not currently on display


March 28, 2009
Celadon originated in China, but the technique of decorating it with inlaid motifs is a Korean invention. Designs are first carved in the leather-hard clay body, and the resulting cavities are filled with a white or black slip (liquid clay). The excess slip is then wiped clean from the surface and the entire vessel coated with thin, semitransparent celadon glaze. The best glaze was thin with few bubbles, producing a bright sheen that clearly showed the elegance of the inlaid designs. On this high-quality bowl (6), a sparse network of fine crackles enhances the beauty of the grayish blue glaze.
The four white floral sprays depicted inside the bowl beneath a narrow band of white arabesque scrolls are litchis, a sweet fruit native to southern China that would have been a luxury import to the Goryeo court. On the exterior, four double-ring chrysanthemum roundels in black-and-white inlay decorate the body beneath a narrow band of three lines of white inlay. The use of black-and-white inlay on the exterior but only white on the interior creates a subtle visual contrast between the two sides. The pictorial design exemplifies the balance between restraint and exuberance achieved in the best pieces of inlaid celadon.
(Label for UMMA Korean Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)
Compared to the similar, earlier bowl (6) with the litchi design on the left, this one (7) is the lesser in technique and color. Parts of the body are discolored due to misfiring, and the glaze near the foot is marred. Although the pictorial design shows balance and restraint, the inlaid work is somewhat stiff and uninspired compared to that observed in the litchi bowl. This later bowl is best viewed as a transitional piece between the golden age of inlaid celadon in the second half of the twelfth century and its demise in the fourteenth century.
Among the innumerable shades of celadon, the clear, blue-green tone seen here comes closest to the kingfisher blue or jade green that is most prized by connoisseurs past and present. The underlying blue tone of the glaze is particularly noticeable where it has gathered near the foot. The surface is exceptionally smooth and without crackle. While this cup once had a matching footed saucer or stand and is thought to have been used for wine, it could have also been used for serving poured tea at court, where tea drinking was part of the daily routine in Goryeo times. The decoration subtly and intimately communicated to the cup’s user, coming into view just as the cup was brought up to the lips.

Subject Matter:

Bowl with chrysanthemum and litchi designs.

Physical Description:

This bowl is a fine example which displays the excellent decorative techniques applied to Goryeo celadon by its magnificent decorations: a band of foliage design right below the mouth, the four pomegranate designs on the inner wall, and a chrysanthemum floret on the inner bottom. On the outer surface, there are four sets of double concentric circles inlaid with white slip, each containing a chrysanthemum spray inlaid in black and white. The foot retains three quartzite spur marks. ere are cracks on the outer base due to the thickness of the wall. Glaze has been applied down to the foot and well-fused, while color is also evenly distributed.
[Korean Collection, University of Michigan Museum of Art (2014) p.106]

Shallow bowl with celadon glaze. Four concentric circles grace the exterior of the bowl, with a chrysanthemum roundel centered in the inner circle. Above these designs, three thinly incised bands stretch across the bowl parallel to the rim. In this location on the inside of the bowl is a cross-hatched pattern, flanked by one incised line above and two below. Also decorating the inside of the bowls are four sprays of litchis.

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